Will You Facebook Me?

Michigan police have arrested a man for violating the state’s polygamy laws when his first wife found incriminating photos of him with his second wife on Facebook.

Bigamist Mastermind?

Facebook, like the law, doesn't recognize bigamist relationships

Richard Leon Barton, Jr. married his first wife Adina Quarto in 2004, a year after they had met online. Shortly thereafter, however, the couple discussed getting a divorce but never followed through with the paperwork. One day, Mr. Barton suddenly moved out of their home and disappeared from her life. The two remained friends on Facebook, until Mr. Barton finally “unfriended” her. By viewing the parts of his profile (and his friends’ profiles) that were still open to the public, however, Mr. Quarto discovered that he had actually gotten married to another woman. Police arrested the alleged bigamist.

Moral of the story: be careful what information you (and your friends) put on Facebook!

All kidding aside, do you really think his conviction should stand? Mr. Barton and his first wife had already agreed to divorce before he separated from her–the only thing left to do was the actual paperwork. The couple didn’t even live together under the same roof anymore, and even after he left their home the two talked over the phone and via the Internet about finalizing their divorce papers. Mr. Barton claims that he believed he had signed some divorce papers a few years earlier when he was incarcerated for an unrelated charge, but doesn’t remember the exact details.

What harm has Mr. Barton really done? Violate the black letter of the law, you say? But isn’t the law supposed to be applied flexibly?