Should Meier's Suicide be Allowed as Evidence in Lori Drew's Myspace Case?
On Wednesday, Lori Drew, the Missouri woman whose "cyber-bullying" led to the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier, learned that her motion for a bench trial was denied, and that despite her wishes to the contrary, she'll face a jury when her trial starts on Nov. 18. It's hard to imagine Drew suffering less under a jury, but as the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog noted when Drew initially motioned for a bench trial, the judge didn't know enough about Myspace to have a sound opinion either way:
[U.S. District Court Judge George Wu] is still confused on a few points, according to [Drew attorney Dean Steward], with whom we spoke yesterday. "My sense," Steward told the Law Blog, "is that Judge Wu still wants to hear some actual testimony regarding the MySpace terms of service and the way MySpace works. Much of the discussion at the hearing focused on whether you have to agree to the terms of service if you're simply visiting the site [but aren't a member]. My sense is that the judge wants someone on the witness stand that can tell him exactly how the technology works."
Drew's lawyers are now asking the court to exclude Meier's death as evidence, but as Jacob Sullum pointed out in May, conspiracy is one of the charges U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien brought against Drew, which means Meier is fair game. My guess is that the jury will hang Drew out to dry if Meier's death can be submitted as evidence, despite the fact that O'Brien used a bastardized interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to charge Drew in the first place (and only after prosecutors in Missouri declined to charge Drew, arguing that she didn't break any laws). Drew's legal team has argued that Meier's death has nothing to do with the charges brought against Drew:
The defense has asked the judge to exclude mention of the death because the charges — that Drew violated a federal anti-hacking law by misrepresenting herself on the California-based MySpace site — do not involve Meier's death. The defense says use of it would be prejudicial and play to jurors' emotions.