Litigation

Judge Forbids Mention of Meier's Suicide in Lori Drew Trial

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This just in:

The trial of a Missouri woman who's accused of creating a phony profile on News Corp.'s MySpace social-networking Web site that led a teenage girl to kill herself may not include evidence of the suicide.

U.S. District Judge George Wu, at a hearing today in Los Angeles, indicated that allowing jurors to hear about the suicide would be too prejudicial, according to H. Dean Steward, a lawyer for Lori Drew, who had asked for the evidence to be excluded. Wu asked the government to file additional arguments and will make a decision at a Nov. 14 hearing, Steward said.

"Without the suicide, they don't have a case," Steward said in a telephone interview.

Read the whole thing here. 

It'll be interesting to see what U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien comes up with to justify mention of Meier's suicide. 

More on Lori Drew here, here, here, and here.

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  1. Good. I don’t care how sympathetic the circumstances are, this prosecution is a travesty of law and justice.

  2. Judge the whole person, not the crime!

  3. It may be a travesty of law, but I can’t root for a wretched bitch like Lori Drew.

  4. Prejudicial? I fail to see how the suicide is even probative of the charge.

    She should be facing a civil suit fir intentional infliction of emotional distress. A lifetime of poverty should send a message better than this huge leap of reasoning.

    The real fun will be finding 14 local jurors who haven’t heard of this case.

  5. 14? they do something different in missouri?

    im glad for the ruling but she does deserve to be beaten

  6. ev

    I’m pretty sure most places use alternate jurors in case something happens to the panel. 12 jurors + 2 alternates = 14 for a felony trial.

  7. Eryk – presumably, it would be tough to discuss how Drew violated the ToS without getting into the nature of the violation.

    It’s going to take some artful questioning on the part of counsel (for both sides) to make sure it does not get mentioned.

  8. Don’t have anything new to add…this was the right call.

  9. The entire charade we call the justice system is nothing but tricks and technicalities. There isn’t even a presumption of getting at the truth.

    If you prosecute someone for culpability in pushing some kid into committing suicide how do you not introduce the fucking suicide?

    Idiots.

    Disclaimer: That is not to say whether or not the arrest and prosecution is right or wrong.

    It is to say the judge is an idiot. But I repeat myself.

    I believe vigilante justice is called for in this instance.

    Shotgun Sings the Song Regards, TWC

  10. TWC – the charges are for hacking and violating MySpace’s ToS.

    IOW, they’re trumped-up charges because the county prosecutor (wisely) decided NOT to prosecute Drew for Meier’s choice of suicide.

  11. I’m not a lawyer, but I guess I do have to say, regretfully, that this odd stricture may well be the right call. None of the things that Drew is charged with involve causing anyone’s death. So it’s not directly relevant and would of course be prejudicial.

  12. David, hard as it may be to “root” for the bitch, don’t forget that each new creative stretch of criminal law starts with the prosecution of an unpopular scum. The prosecutors then have a precedence they can use against the not-so-despicable.

  13. I believe vigilante justice is called for in this instance.

    I rarely disagree with TWC and I certainly don’t in this case.

  14. Lester, I am a lawyer and you basically got all the important points. The real difference is that I’d use longer words (lacks probative value, prejudicial effect substantially outweighs probative value) and charge more than you. 🙂

  15. Forget trying to find 14 jurors that haven’t heard of the case. Try finding 14 jurors that have used the internet more than 5 minutes in their life and (a) haven’t signed up for some website lying about their real identity and (b) won’t be shocked out of their minds at the prospect of criminal prosecution for violating terms of service that no one reads.

  16. For those keeping track, George Wu is the same judge for Charlie Lynch’s trial.

  17. Angry, yes, poor choice of words on my part.

    Ordinarily, violating a TOS agreement would be a civil matter and not a criminal matter. So if it is a criminal matter there has to be a reason for it. If it’s criminal, then why is it criminal? Because someone was enticed through fraud to draw a warm bath and to bring along a box of razor blades.

    I’m not certain that Drew should be prosecuted for the death, but she is much more culpable than say, Ozzie Osborne or Blue Oyster Cult. Intoning against fear of the Reaper is quite a bit different from telling someone to eat a .357. (hyperbole).

    I’m also not saying it’s right, but the law is used in all kinds of ways to prosecute people for icky stuff. Conspiracy trials being a rather obvious manifestation. In this case, the prosecutor presumably felt like he couldn’t make a conspiracy charge stick, so he went for something that might.

    Regardless of the merits of the prosecution, if it was my kid, justice would be served and served cold. OTOH, parents who pay attention to what their kids are up too usually don’t have kids who are susceptible to the influence of people like this.

  18. Thanks SIV, have a glass, on me.

    Dannnnnyyy! Bring the man a glass of your best cab.

    (Danny used to be the bartender at the Libertarian Club at Prodigy in the old days. Back when 286’s with 40mb HD’s were cutting edge)

  19. “Vigilante justice = emotions-ruled mob violence”.

    Vigilante justice is inimical to civilization.

    No thanks, guys. I’d rather have Lorie Drew alive than live in Somalia.

  20. I believe vigilante justice is called for in this instance.

    Gentlemen, while I’m sympathetic to your inclinations, wasn’t that the rationale behind the perp’s poor judgmeent?

  21. TWC, I understand your outrage at the result of Ms. Drew’s infantile actions.
    But unless I missed it, she had absolutely no intention to physically harm the girl, let alone kill her. I don’t know if she had any reason to imagine that the girl was as mentally unstable as she turned out to be. Seems to me we need to be very careful not to push for criminal convictions and thus precedents based on the , perhaps unforseeable, outcome but based on the production a foreseeable result.
    Have you ever in your life done anything incredibly foolish and were totally surprised at the spray as it hit a gigantic fan?
    Imagine how this outcome based line of reasoning could be expanded at infinitum covering thoughtless actions even incidentally causing a bad result.

  22. Vigilante justice = emotions-ruled mob violence

    Fair enough. I’ve used ill defined and poorly chosen words twice tonight on this thread.

    What I really mean is revenge and divine retribution. Leave the mobs out of it and the well-meaning friends at home to watch Idol.

    If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.

  23. Wife: Arrest him!
    More: For what?
    Wife: He’s dangerous!
    Roper: For all we know he’s a spy!
    Daughter: Father, that man’s bad!
    More: There’s no law against that!
    Roper: There is, God’s law!
    More: Then let God arrest him!
    Wife: While you talk he’s gone!
    More: And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
    Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
    More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
    Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
    More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?
    This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down (and you’re just the man to do it!), do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

  24. The real fun will be finding 14 local jurors

    Also, for those keeping track, the trial is in L.A. not MO.

  25. Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

    I really want to make a list of all the legal travesties that I am personally aware of since I the day, many moons ago, the Secret Service of the United States of America planted pot on me. It could have gone very badly, but thanks to a veteran San Clemente police sergeant nothing came of that except some soiled undies.

    Yes, America is better than Somalia (Angry Optometrist is right about that). There is, at least, a pretense of justice.

    Maybe, like Han Solo, I’ve just seen a lot of strange stuff in my day.

  26. So, if I told you all you have no lives and are all wastes of flesh, and one of you went off an killed yourself, I could be held responsible? This sounds like a dangerous precedent… but correct me if I’m wrong.

  27. … However, it might cut down on about half of the idiotic youtube comments, which might not be a bad thing

  28. Nothing like a kangaroo Judge and his Kangaroo Court to ruin the days events huh?

    Jess
    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  29. Regardless of the merits of the prosecution, if it was my kid, justice would be served and served cold. OTOH, parents who pay attention to what their kids are up too usually don’t have kids who are susceptible to the influence of people like this.

    Agree as to the vengeance. It would be well worth my time to go to prison to make sure the bitch who did this to my kid dies a horrible death.

    Gotta disagree, though, on the “pay attention” part. By the time they’re 13-14, and with the ubiquity of the internet and such, you can’t watch everything they do, any more than you can know which bullies are picking on them in school. Kids hide plenty from their folks. In some cases, the more the parents snoop, the better the kids get at hiding stuff. Not gonna blame her parents for this. The kid was using the internet, they all do it. You can’t watch every second they’re on there, nor, realistically, can, or should, you log every keystroke and review the report every night after the kids’ in bed. You’d go from “parenting” to outright obsession.

  30. allowing jurors to hear about the suicide would be too prejudicial

    Like they don’t know about it already, or won’t learn about it soon enough.

  31. Good. Too bad there is a trial at all.

  32. More fodder for Nancy Grace, CNN’s resident vampiress.

  33. This was the right call. she is a worthless human, but even the worthles deserve protection from overreaching DA’s. Just a thought, i do not know about you, but when i see someone online who i do not like, or if someone were to mess with me online. i would just set the im’s to ignore and delete anything i did not want to see. The teenager had that choice, she did not have to react with suicide. she needed mental help. and so does this lady, but that is beside the point

  34. Er?k Boston, Esq. | November 10, 2008, 10:33pm
    She should be facing a civil suit fir intentional infliction of emotional distress. A lifetime of poverty should send a message better than this huge leap of reasoning.

    Er?k, have you ever intentionally inflicted emotiopnal stress on somebody? Since you’ve become an adult? Of course you have. Were you aware of the mental and emotional state of the people you committed this heinous crime against? Of course you weren’t.

    Sorry folks. She’s a cold heartless bitch.* I can be and have been a cold heartless bitch* as well. So fuckin’ what? Were I an acquaintance of the cunt*, I would be intentionally inflicting emotional stress upon her. What goes around, comes around and all of that.

    * Once again I find I must apologize for using obviously sexist nouns. Please don’t get hysterical** over it.

    ** Adjectives too.

  35. Just a thought, i do not know about you, but when i see someone online who i do not like, or if someone were to mess with me online. i would just set the im’s to ignore and delete anything i did not want to see. The teenager had that choice, she did not have to react with suicide.

    True, she didn’t, but this story didn’t begin with harassment. Lori Drew pretended to be a boy the same age and flirted with this girl. Then, when the girl had become emotionally involved, she turned on her.

  36. Were you aware of the mental and emotional state of the people you committed this heinous crime against? Of course you weren’t.

    Ok, but if that person is 13 years old, maybe you should assume they are fragile. Maybe how one can treat another adult should not be the same as how one can treat a child.

  37. “Eryk – presumably, it would be tough to discuss how Drew violated the ToS without getting into the nature of the violation.”

    She… misrepresented her identity. In violation of the ToS. Done.

    Sorry, I can’t get behind criminalizing breach of contract just to catch one evildoer. If I didn’t care at what price justice, I’d probably be at Free Republic instead of Hit and Run. The only reason the DA wants to admit this is to make sure the jury wants to punish this woman for -something-, instead of considering the charges, which are 100% pure bullshit. He may as well lead a lynch mob.

  38. Ok, but if that person is 13 years old, maybe you should assume they are fragile. Maybe how one can treat another adult should not be the same as how one can treat a child.

    Teens are emtionally fragile and adults aren’t. Got it. Some may claim that teens are more resilient than adults.

    From the NIMH.

    In 2004, suicide was the third leading cause of death in each of the following age groups.1 Of every 100,000 young people in each age group, the following number died by suicide:1

    Children ages 10 to 14 – 1.3 per 100,000
    Adolescents ages 15 to 19 – 8.2 per 100,000
    Young adults ages 20 to 24 – 12.5 per 100,000

  39. This trial reminds me of the difficulties of supporting the ACLU while they are defending some piece of trash that almost everyone agrees should rot in hell. Principles matter more than feelings about any particular individual.

    Isn’t it worth it if we can save just one life? No, it isn’t!

  40. Teens are emtionally fragile and adults aren’t. Got it.

    Not quite my point, I was thinking more along the lines that what Lori Drew did was predatory behavior because her target was a child. The fact that some adults may be emotionally fragile is besides the point.

    Lori Drew’s target was too young to drink, vote, drive, smoke cigarettes, or have consensual sex. If we assume she lacked the maturity for any of those activities, why assume that a 13 year old has the maturity to deal with the likes of Lori Drew?

  41. J sub D–

    The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress is a lot more than just calling someone names or being mean. For the most part, it’s limited to extreme acts of harassment outside the bounds of human decency intended to and actually causing severe emotional distress and possibly physical damage. Like, well, Lori Drew’s behavior. The criminal case against her is hard, but the plaintiff’s lawyer who loses the civil suit should quit the law in disgrace for incompetence.

  42. The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress is a lot more than just calling someone names or being mean. For the most part, it’s limited to extreme acts of harassment outside the bounds of human decency intended to and actually causing severe emotional distress and possibly physical damage.

    So it’s a matter of degree and the, oh so easy to prove, intent? It is to be decided by attorney’s rhetorical skills and the credulity of the jury?

    Plaintiffs should hope I’m not a juror. Sticks and stones …

  43. The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress is a lot more than just calling someone names or being mean. For the most part, it’s limited to extreme acts of harassment outside the bounds of human decency intended to and actually causing severe emotional distress and possibly physical damage.

    This is why it’s a stupid and unjust tort. It creates actionable harm out of behavior that is constitutionally protected or that should be constitutionally protected.

    Basically in the Lori Drew story Drew decided that this girl had been mean to her own daughter, so she decided to be mean back. And this computer persona was the method she chose. What if she had chosen a different method? What if she and her daughter had inspired their entire town to shun the teenager in question? I bet a town-wide shunning might have inspired this kid to kill herself, too. But you know what? It would have been behavior that absolutely would deserve protection, and that absolutely would have been within the bounds of Drew’s associational liberty. But I don’t see how it wouldn’t fit the tort of intentional emotional distress just as much as the MySpace thing did, according to the definition you’ve provided.

    The bottom line is that we should all possess the right to inflict extreme emotional distress, as long as we don’t employ force or the threat of force to do it.

  44. Gotta disagree, though, on the “pay attention” part. By the time they’re 13-14, and with the ubiquity of the internet and such, you can’t watch everything they do, any more than you can know which bullies are picking on them in school. Kids hide plenty from their folks.

    Independent, I understand your point about paying attention, and you are correctomundo. However, kids who know their parents give a crap are less likely to find trouble than those whose parents don’t. Saw that growing up and I see it now. No magic bullet and, as you say, obsessive parenting will backfire (saw that too) so you have to find a middle ground.

  45. The bottom line is that we should all possess the right to inflict extreme emotional distress, as long as we don’t employ force or the threat of force to do it.

    When I was 14 we used to ride our bikes past this girl’s house every day. We didn’t like her so we’d holler out “Cammy Davis Is A Bitch!” as we rode by. Her father eventually called my father and had a talk with him about it.

    Guess what? My dad didn’t tell her dad that it was free speech and to go fuck himself. He told me to knock my shit off. And I did.

    And even if it was free speech, it was also disturbing the peace.

  46. None of the things that Drew is charged with involve causing anyone’s death.

    Depends on how far you are willing to stretch the term “cause.”

    She certainly intended to cause emotional distress. Its a stretch, but I don’t think its beyond the pale to say that it is a foreseeable risk of intentionally causing emotional distress to a child is that child harming themselves.

    Generally speaking, when you break a law, you are responsible for all the consequences of breaking the law. If you rob bank, and while making your getaway someone dies, you can be charged with murder.

  47. The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.

    (Henry Louis Mencken)

    Personally, I think Drew should not be criminally prosecuted, but that she should be ostracized from polite society. No decent person should want to have anything to do with her. I’d like her to live a long life with only her conscience to keep her company, and to eventually die alone, unmourned and unloved. Is that too harsh?

  48. “””Drew is charged with unauthorized access of computers to obtain information, a violation of the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that is unrelated to the suicide, Steward said in his request to exclude the evidence.”””

    This is a sad ordeal but the judge made the right call. The suicide is irrelevant to the unauthorized access of a computer. If you want to go after the suicide, charge accordingly.

    I would be curious if this crime, as written, requires the information to be non-public. Is it really a crime to create a fake account to access information intented to be displayed to the public? And, if Meier’s profile was public or not.

    I think it would be hard to convict someone of someone elses suicide. One who commits suicide made the decision, and takes the action to end their own life. They had the choice not to, but did it anyway. In a trial that would be hard to ignore. Plus it would get real nasty, mental health issues are always central to a suicide. The parents would be painted as bad parents. It’s a tough call for the parents but due to Drew’s intent they might have a civil case.

    “””Generally speaking, when you break a law, you are responsible for all the consequences of breaking the law. If you rob bank, and while making your getaway someone dies, you can be charged with murder.”””

    True, but she’s charged with unauthorized access of computers to obtain information, so you would have to explain how obtaining infromation lead to her suicide. The suicide doesn’t follow from the crime as charged. If they charged Drew with something regarding the posting of false information, then the suicide would be fair game. The false information posted led Meier’s to commit suicide. But they haven’t done that.

  49. It creates actionable harm out of behavior that is constitutionally protected or that should be constitutionally protected.

    So, if calmly and coolly come around and say “Pay up the money by midnight tonight or we’re going to come around and kill you”…there should be no tortious action there?

  50. So, if calmly and coolly come around and say “Pay up the money by midnight tonight or you should kill yourself“…there should be no tortious action there?

  51. this way? – I was addressing the idea that there should be no tort of IIED (Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress).

    We don’t allow all speech in the world of criminality, and I don’t see why all speech should be protected in the civil system.

    You cannot just go around making death threats without expecting there to be some kind of consequences.

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