The once-solid lines between the private and public continued to blur on Friday after a South Florida man posted on Facebook what he said was a photograph of his dead wife’s body, then turned himself in to authorities.
Derek Medina, 31, was arraigned on a charge of first-degree murder on Friday, a Miami-Dade police spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times. Medina is charged with fatally shooting his wife, Jennifer Alfonso, in the couple’s home in South Miami on Thursday morning. Medina then drove to the South Miami Police Department and surrendered.
When police searched the home, Alfonso’s 10-year-old daughter was found unharmed, police said.
While tragic, the incident, which began as a domestic argument, is all too common in almost every police jurisdiction. What was different, however, was that Medina took time to share his feelings on Facebook.
“Im going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys, miss you guys takecare Facebook people you will see me in the news,” stated a Thursday morning post on Derek Medina's Facebook page. The page has since been taken down, though copies of the post and even the picture of the dead woman went out on the Web.
Through much of early history there was no distinction between the public and private, but that changed by the time of the Protestant Reformation and accelerated through the technological advances that came with the Industrial Revolution. Whole schools of thought, politics and law are still wrestling with questions devoted to finding the line between personal privacy and governmental action. In the United States, for example, such key issues as abortion rights hinge on that distinction, and rights questions inform such issues as drone attacks and governmental surveillance of private communications.
The recent wave of technological change, if anything, have accelerated the discussion even as more issues that once remained hidden have bubbled through the Web.
For example, in June, a Utah man issued status updates on Facebook during a police siege. Just days ago, a Colorado rapper posted a song he had recorded chronicling his version of events during a police raid. He then posted his ad hoc artistic endeavor on YouTube. NPR radio journalist Scott Simon famously posted his mother’s dying days -- what once would have been a private agony -- on Twitter and won acclaim and followers.
The events in Florida and the posting of the picture of the body appear to be a first. Facebook officials wouldn’t comment on the incident, except in a statement emailed to reporters.
“The content was reported to us,” a Facebook spokesperson stated. “We took action on the profile — removing the content and disabling the profile, and we reached out to law enforcement. We take action on all content that violates our terms, which are clearly laid out on our site.”
Police would not discuss the motive for the shooting, which, according to an affidavit, Medina said started as a heated domestic quarrel in the couple’s upstairs bedroom.
Medina and the woman argued; then the wife left the bedroom, returning later to say she was leaving him. He said he went downstairs and confronted her in the kitchen, when she began punching him. He said he then went back upstairs to get his gun and confronted her again, at which time she grabbed a knife, he told police.
Medina said he took away the knife and put it in a drawer.
But then Alfonso began punching him again, so Medina shot her several times, according to the affidavit.
The first Facebook post went out about 11:11 a.m.
The post said that his wife was punching him and that he wasn't going to stand any more abuse. The second and last post — also at 11:11 a.m. and titled “RIP Jennifer Alfonso” — was a gruesome photograph showing a woman in black leotards slumped on the floor. The photo was up for more than five hours before Facebook removed the page late Thursday afternoon.