Drew Conviction Overturned

July 3, 2009 at 12:10 am Leave a comment

CNN is reporting that the cyber-bullying conviction of 49-year-old Missouri resident Lori Drew has been overturned by a U.S. District Judge in California today. Drew, as many of you probably know, was convicted under a federal statute normally used to target hackers as a result of posing as a teenage boy on MySpace to harass 13-year-old Meagan Meier. All of this came to light after Meier committed suicide after recieving a message from Drew that the world would be better off without her in it.
This case sparked a lot of controversy back when it was big news for several reasons (certainly one of the reasons being the tragic nature of the circumstances). There was a lot of anger in the media and in the blogosphere over Drew’s actions, and understandably so. What she did was, at very best, completely irresponsible and malicious and, at very worst, completely morally reprehensible. Apparently, Drew had nothing better to do with her time than make up fictiously personalities with which to bully a 13-year-old girl whom had a spat with her own daughter.

I’m going to go out on a limb, though, and say that I’m glad her conviction got tossed. I disagreed with charging Drew criminally, and I disagreed with her indictment and conviction. That’s not to say that I don’t think what Drew did merited criminal sanctions – I do think what she did merits criminal sanctions. The problem, though, is that there wasn’t really a law prohibiting what she did. There was no state law under which prosecutors could charge her, and so the feds charged her under this federal statute and alleged in the indictment that she violated the terms of service of MySpace (which resulted in a misdemeanor conviction for Drew).

There’s the old saying that you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwhich. That’s especially true when you have tragic circumstances and concomittant public outrage since prosecutors are, more often than not, political figures themselves who are accountable to the electorate. The term “outrage indictment” has been thrown around regarding this case, and I think that’s pretty accurate.

Some prosecutors that I know have said that, even if someone isn’t guilty of the crime with which they’re charged, they’re guilty of something. All well and dandy (and probably true), except I don’t think that’s really how law operates in this country (not that I’m an expert or anything). Taking a ride on that logic train would allow a prosecutor to charge anyone with any crime and have no trouble achieving a guilty verdict simply on the basis of “well, they’re guilty of something.”

Drew is no doubt guilty of something. She’s probably guilty of lots of things. Unfortuantely, with respect to the Drew saga, she’s not guilty of breaking any law that was in effect at the time.

That all says nothing about the possibility of a civil suit, and one can only hope that Drew gets hit hard with a wrongful death judgment.

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Entry filed under: Law.

Skepticism and the Law

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