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Lori Drew Cyber-Bullying Trial Begins 317

Posted by kdawson
from the trying-to-outlaw-acting-like-a-jerk dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The cyber-bullying trial of Lori Drew opened yesterday. She was indicted for conspiring to access and accessing MySpace illegally in order to 'further a tortious act, namely, intentional infliction of emotional distress' (PDF of the indictment). The BBC has background on the case, the NYTimes covers the opening statements, and Wired has today's testimony."
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Lori Drew Cyber-Bullying Trial Begins

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  • Overreaching (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GMonkeyLouie (1372035) <gmonkeylouie@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:26PM (#25846775)
    Like the NYT article says, this does seem like a case the Federal statute doesn't technically apply to. It's a pretty blatant example of overreaching. However, this woman should clearly be punished. I think the trial's going to have to take a look into who actually wrote the messages that compelled suicide and exactly how much Ms. Drew knew about the victim's mental instability. I still don't know whether or not to think of this as an immature prank gone terribly, terribly wrong, or a real attempt to prey on a weak girl's vulnerable mental state.
    • Re:Overreaching (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:32PM (#25846851) Homepage Journal

      I still don't know whether or not to think of this as an immature prank gone terribly, terribly wrong, or a real attempt to prey on a weak girl's vulnerable mental state.

      It's not both? This woman is a grade-A sociopath, regardless of whether or not she suspected her victim would be so gravely affected as to commit suicide. She needs to be institutionalized regardless of the outcome of her actions, it's just unfortunate that these kind of people are only brought to light when something tragic happens.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by GMonkeyLouie (1372035)
        Hmm, I wonder if Ms. Drew could be considered to be legally insane. She does seem incapable of telling right from wrong, but I don't know if this behavior is grounds for institutionalization. Maybe just de-internet-access-ization.
        • Re:Overreaching (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday November 21, 2008 @01:02PM (#25847305)

          That opens a terrible door though. Do you really want the government with the power to declare an individual randomly "incapble of telling right from wrong" (maybe you voted for the wrong political party and now fit this criteria) and then institutionalized for it? Remember: it's for your own good.

          Truthfully, I think it's clear that what this woman did was wrong, and she SHOULD be punished, but we need to find a non-biased, and clear cut way that doesn't involve personal judgements to explicitly DEFINE what exactly she did wrong, and to what level people should be punished for it.

          • Re:Overreaching (Score:4, Insightful)

            by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday November 21, 2008 @01:50PM (#25847965) Homepage Journal
            "Truthfully, I think it's clear that what this woman did was wrong, and she SHOULD be punished..."

            I think it was wrong too, but if there is no clear cut law on the books to prosecute her with, then they should have to deal with that fact, and let her go.

            They can not be enabled to stretch any law they like to try to catch someone doing something bad. That opens up a WHOLE new can of worms that we really don't want opened.

          • That opens a terrible door though. Do you really want the government with the power to declare an individual randomly "incapble of telling right from wrong" (maybe you voted for the wrong political party and now fit this criteria) and then institutionalized for it? Remember: it's for your own good.

            Erm, they already have that ability, yes? That's practically the definition of legally insane [lectlaw.com].

          • The government already has that power, though it's usually used in fairly clear cases. A person can be adjudicated to be a danger to himself or others, and lose access to firearms. In many states, a person can be adjudicated legally insane due to an inability to perceive right from wrong, and lose their right to vote. This usually happens in criminal cases, so the result would be the same either way, but it doesn't always happen that way.

            The defendant is certainly someone that I find a bit scary. She se

      • Re:Overreaching (Score:4, Insightful)

        by OrangeCowHide (810076) * on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:46PM (#25847071)

        I have been reading about this case for some time. So far the known points are Lori Drew may have been aware that her assistant (Grills) and daughter were putting together a fake MySpace account to "befriend" one Megan Meier. The assistant and daughter exchanged messaged with the Meir girl pretending to be a boy from Florida who was interested in her. After something upset the real life relationship with the Drew daughter and the Meier girl, the daughter and Grills started using the fake MySpace account to send mean-spirited messages to Megan. Culminating in Grills sending a message telling Megan the world would be better off without her.

        You may not have noticed, but the only involvement ever mentioned in connection with Lori Drew is that she may have been aware the account was created. She did not herself create the account. She did not herself send messages to Megan Meier. She did not tell Meier to kill herself.

        How does this qualify as "Grade-A Sociopath"? I don't see that anything she did qualifies as wrong, let alone immoral, or illegal.

        But Dammit! we need vengeance, and we already gave immunity to Grills if she agreed to testify, so...

        • Re:Overreaching (Score:5, Informative)

          by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday November 21, 2008 @01:43PM (#25847873) Homepage Journal

          You may not have noticed, but the only involvement ever mentioned in connection with Lori Drew is that she may have been aware the account was created. She did not herself create the account. She did not herself send messages to Megan Meier. She did not tell Meier to kill herself.

          From Wired [wired.com]:

          Grills was in the kitchen with Drew and Sarah, Lori Drew's then-13-year-old daughter, when she proposed creating a fake MySpace account to get information on Megan. Drew applauded the plan, and thought it was funny, but did not herself conceive it, Grills said.
          The three of them crowded around Drew's computer as Grills set up the account. None of the three read MySpace's terms-of-service first, said Grills. As Grills began, Lori and Sarah Drew left for soccer practice, urging Grills to finish up in their absence.

          That's a little different than saying "she may have been aware the account was created". Also,

          Over the course of the 28 days the Josh Evans account was active, Lori Drew helped craft messages sent to Meier, Grills said, and assumed the Evans identity directly for at least one short exchange, when Grills messaged Meier and wound up talking with her mother instead. Tina Meier testified previously that she wrote "Josh" that she thought he should focus on kids his own age. Josh replied, "I understand."

          I'd be willing to downgrade her from "primary actor" to "willing participant", but I don't think you can say she was only partially involved.

      • Re:Overreaching (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:47PM (#25847087) Journal

        If we institutionalised sociopaths then a large number of corporations would be looking for new C?Os and a large number of political posts would be open.

        Not, actually, a bad thing, now I come to think of it...

        • Re:Overreaching (Score:4, Interesting)

          by inviolet (797804) <slashdot AT ideasmatter DOT org> on Friday November 21, 2008 @01:16PM (#25847489) Journal

          If we institutionalised sociopaths then a large number of corporations would be looking for new C?Os and a large number of political posts would be open.

          You jest, but leadership is what sociopaths are for.

          A sociopath (aka psychopath) lacks any empathy, and is only vaguely aware of long-term consequences. They are also very highly skilled at manipulation. This makes them ideal leaders in the face of an ill-willed adversary. Unfortunately, they hurt everyone they come in contact with, so outside of a leadership job they are loathsome. I have one in the office next door to mine, and the world would be a better place if she were to depart it.

          The rate at which mother nature presents us with sociopaths -- from 1% to 5%, it's hard to tell -- indicates the historical size of our tribes, assuming each tribe needs one sociopathic leader. If the birth rate of sociopaths is 2%, then our average tribe size throughout our history is 50.

      • This woman is a grade-A sociopath, regardless of whether or not she suspected her victim would be so gravely affected as to commit suicide. She needs to be institutionalized regardless of the outcome of her actions, it's just unfortunate that these kind of people are only brought to light when something tragic happens.

        It is a good thing we have such wonderful armchair psychiatrists who can spot who should and shouldn't be locked up based on no scientific or legal qualifications.

        What the woman did happens quite a bit every day. The outcome of this was terrible, but locking someone up for an outcome that happened to which she had almost no control over is ridiculous.

        If someone commits suicide and writes a note saying it was because they lost their job, should we arrest the person who fired them? Of course not.

        It is reactio

    • I personally don't think that there was a crime here. People have been manipulating other people since the beginning of time. I think that Lori Drew, whatever her real motivation was, is a despicable person.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by GMonkeyLouie (1372035)
        Actually I think you could make a good case for whoever was at the keyboard being an accessory to the crime of suicide. One of the rare justifications for making suicide illegal.
        • by TypoNAM (695420)
          Don't you mean assisted suicide? Because you cannot charge a dead body with crime of committing suicide....

          Or can you [straightdope.com]?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      If someone does something that is 'wrong' you make a law, you don't trample there rights and use incorrect laws.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by csartanis (863147)
        You cant charge someone of committing a crime if it wasn't a crime when they committed it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Luscious868 (679143)
      This woman can and will be punished in civil court which is where something like this belongs. She could probably be sued successfully for wrongful death and could definitely be sued successfully for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. She'll be taken to the cleaners and rightfully so. That combined with the public shaming that has come from the publicity surrounding this case is just punishment in my opinion. This woman did a very mean and petty thing that resulted in a real tragedy but at th
  • by MaxwellEdison (1368785) on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:32PM (#25846861)

    The cyber-bullying trial of Lori Drew

    Its a nice attempt, but it simply can't compete with the likes of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, or The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension. Or even The Adventures of Baron Munchausen for that matter.

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:33PM (#25846867)

    What Lori Drew did was reprehensible and possibly illegal, but I get the feeling that she's being charged with the wrong crime. "Accessing MySpace illegally?" Now, I don't have a MySpace page, but it was my understanding that anyone could open a MySpace page and use it to contact other people. You don't even have to give your real name when you do so. I'd rather see some harassment charges or even something along the lines of manslaughter. What she did was psychologically manipulate that girl until she killed herself. That was the crime. MySpace was just the method.

    • by Shivetya (243324) on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:51PM (#25847139) Homepage Journal

      If you read the story its because they can't nail her for the suicide they are doing this because "they have to do something". Which makes this case all the worse. I am wondering if the "hate crime" angle wasn't explored, its as silly as the approach they are taking.

      So basically she does something which causes another to harm themselves. Technically she didn't cause the harm and as such is immune to prosecution. So instead they will twist a law and trump up some charges on this twist in regards to rules violated no one would ever consider for serious prosecution.

      Lovely, whats next. If crap like this succeeds it opens everyone up to any fishing expedition law enforcement cares to make

    • by GMonkeyLouie (1372035) <gmonkeylouie@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:53PM (#25847187)
      Nice, you hit the nail right on the head. If this were done through any medium other than the internet, she would have gotten the charges you mentioned: harassment, maybe manslaughter, maybe accessory to a suicide. But since it's the big and scary internet (and who knows what your kids are doing on there) it's clearly her unfair voodoo use of MySpace that receives the most focus. Just imagine if she had written that teenaged girl a letter instead. Nobody would be saying that the big issue here was violating the ToS of the Postal Service.
    • She took her OWN life , FULL STOP. LORI DREW IS NOT RESPONSIBLE. Im sorry but she was a stupid girl that threw the most precious gift in the universe away. You cannot pin this on anyone but the girl. Manslaughter indeed, grow the fuck up and realize the world is NOT a nice place and while what Lori and friends did may be wrong to you, IT IS NOT A CRIME.
  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:36PM (#25846921)
    It seems to me that one of the implications brought by the defense here is that somehow, using a Facebook assumed identity to try and talk someone into killing themselves has less criminal value than writing threatening anonymous letters or talking on the phone while masking your voice. Shouldn't this whole trial be hinged on whether she has used her prior knowledge of the girl's emotional distress to talk her into suicide, rather than whether or not she commited computer fraud?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      "..., rather than whether or not she commited computer fraud?"

      A) Is that a crime? as in written into law.

      B) If it is, that would be hard to prove.

      If there is no law, then she shouldn't be tried. Use this effort to make a good law, not to stretch existing laws far beyond their intent.

  • If she is found guilty of 'torturous' acts, does that mean that psychological techniques will then be redefined as torture? If so, what implications does that have for the US military's treatment of detainees?

    If she is convicted, but there is no change in military policy, isn't that a double standard?
    • by ratbag (65209) on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:46PM (#25847077)

      "tortious", not "torturous".

      constituting a tort; wrongful.

    • Of course it is a double standard. But there is a difference between government law enforcement against and everyone else. Codified into law, there literally are, two standards.

      Given "just cause" agents of the government can do what ever our laws allow them to do. There are many things the police and military personal can do legally, and many more they can get away with, that I could not.

      An officer can probably get away with bringing a gun just about anywhere, while I could not. [S]he could also get awa

  • I'd be happy... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    if you all'd go kill yourselves. I don't like you anymore, Slashdot. You're fat and ugly :3
  • A better crime? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hikaru79 (832891) on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:44PM (#25847035) Homepage
    I don't understand... clearly the charges are just the first thing they could think of to charge this terrible woman with, because the actual wrong committed (driving a girl to suicide) is not explicitly illegal anywhere. So they chose... 'computer fraud' and violating MySpace TOS?

    Hello!? This is a 30+-year-old woman lying about her identity in order to start a romantic relationship with a 13-year-old girl! Of course her intent was not sexual but if Lori Drew's HUSBAND had perpetrated this exact same "prank" I guarantee the not-quite-accurate charge would have been sexually soliciting a minor, not breaking a EULA!

    The jury is sympathetic enough in this case that I think this charge could definitely pass...
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday November 21, 2008 @12:44PM (#25847045) Homepage

    On the one hand, the federal case is rubbish. Intentionally inflicting emotional distress is so subjective of an offense as to be unconstitutional (judges have used vagueness as a reason to strike down statutes). This case is now clearly entirely one of catharsis for the community and a career opportunity for ambitious prosecutors.

    Yet, I think there can be a case under state law that Lori Drew murdered Megan Meier. I looked it up before, and remember seeing that it said that if you knowingly cause someone to be killed, then you are guilty of murder, and that's a good definition of what Drew did here. With basically demonic-level of malice of forethought, prodded and goaded this girl into exposing herself emotionally to a fictitious lover, knowing full-well that she had some severe issues with depression, and then she stabbed the girl and butterflied the wound.

    It's no wonder why Meier committed suicide. On some level, Drew knew what she was doing. It's already been established in previous reports that she knew all about this girl's psychological problems, and her reported behavior is that of a true predator. She can't claim innocence like "gee golly, I didn't know she very well might kill herself if I set her up for that much anguish and suggested to her that the world might be better off with out her (which Drew did suggest to her)."

    Personally, I would like to have seen a state prosecutor charge her with at least second degree murder because it's a very reasonable conclusion from the evidence that Meier wouldn't have committed suicide had Drew not done what she did, and Drew had a reasonable basis to know that her actions would lead to the girl's suicide.

    • by garett_spencley (193892) on Friday November 21, 2008 @01:01PM (#25847289) Journal

      "Personally, I would like to have seen a state prosecutor charge her with at least second degree murder because it's a very reasonable conclusion from the evidence that Meier wouldn't have committed suicide had Drew not done what she did, and Drew had a reasonable basis to know that her actions would lead to the girl's suicide."

      IANAL but it's my understanding that the deference between first degree murder, second degree murder and manslaughter is premeditated, unplanned (ie: passion killing) and without the element of intent (wanted to hurt him, didn't mean to kill him) respectively.

      So by your logic the grounds would be first degree murder since, by your words, she had every reason to know that her actions would lead the girl's death and her actions were conducted over a period of time. Not in the heat of the moment.

      • by MikeRT (947531)

        The reason I chose second degree murder is that it might be difficult for a prosecutor to show that at every step of the way, she planned for this girl to die. However, they could certainly make a case for the final comments which were about how worthless, ugly, etc. she was and how she should basically off herself could be reasonably construed as Drew going off the deep end and pushing her to commit suicide now.

    • by inviolet (797804)

      Well said.

      Yet, I think there can be a case under state law that Lori Drew murdered Megan Meier. I looked it up before, and remember seeing that it said that if you knowingly cause someone to be killed, then you are guilty of murder, and that's a good definition of what Drew did here. With basically demonic-level of malice of forethought, prodded and goaded this girl into exposing herself emotionally to a fictitious lover, knowing full-well that she had some severe issues with depression, and then she stabbe

    • Any first year torts student knows that Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress is NOT an unconstitutionally vague offense, but is a well established tort cause of action.

      The elements for IIED are typically as follows, however it varies from state to state.

      1. Defendant acted intentionally or recklessly; and
      2. Defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous; and
      3. Defendant's act is the cause of such distress; and
      4. P

  • as if the woman is prosecuted for saying she doesn't like gw bush online

    no folks, this is way beyond simple thought crime

    context is everything:

    1. the woman knew the girl was emotionally unstable
    2. the woman is an adult, the girl was a minor
    3. the woman purposefully set up a fake account with the intent of faking a boy who was interested in her, got her interested in this fake person, and then started insulting her, in the role of the fake boy, and suggesting she commit suicide

    in other words, an adult willfully manipulated an emotionally unstable minor over a prolonged period of time with the intent of causing her psychological harm

    surely some of you can support any law coming out of this case. surely some of you recognize this case is an extreme outlier and can in no way be confused with everyday garden variety trolling and meanness

    if the law is limited to the context of an adult purposefully causing psychological harm over a prolonged period of time to someone they KNOW is a minor and is emotionally unstable, surely you can see that the idea of a slippery slope does not apply

    context is everything, and the context here is really extreme

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)

      There is no crime there.
      It's wrong, but what law did she break?

      Of course

      • the moral reprehensibility of what she did obviously has to be punished. the idea of laws is to maintain a well-functioning society. we have laws against rapists, murders, etc., so we can keep these people away form society. this woman is a psychopath. she should not be allowed to be free in society. she has aptly demonstrated she is a danger to others. whatever law exists or does not exist, the moral basis for her punishment is 100% sound

        • Re:technicality (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nedlohs (1335013) on Friday November 21, 2008 @01:38PM (#25847807)

          That isn't how a fair justice system works.

          If what she did was so bad and she should be punished but she didn't break any laws then bad luck she should get away with it.

          The solution is to enact laws to make whatever is so bad a punishable offence. Now if she or anyone else does it again they can be punished.

          One person getting away with something is completely irrelevant - and in the grand scheme of things completely unimportant. Just pretend they never found out "who dun it" like with thousands of other crimes if it makes you feel better.

          If she's so evil she needs to be kept away fromk society, then she'll do it again and the new law can then be used. (and yes another dead person is a small price to pay, for staying away from being a total police state).

          • it is cases like this that write new laws

            duh

            "and yes another dead person is a small price to pay, for staying away from being a total police state"

            ignorant and retarded on so many levels. as if the creation of new law has anything do with a police state. as if your excusing of psychopathic murder is somehow no worse than what goes on in a police state, making you and your attitude worse than what you fear

            • by nedlohs (1335013)

              Punishing someone via the justice system, when they didn't violate a law - but did something you find morally wrong. Is exactly a police state.

              From the crappy source that is wikipedia:
              """
              A police state typically exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and there is usually little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive.
              """ - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_state [wikipedia.org]

              Using the legal system to punish someone who didn't break the damn law is exactly

              • a police state exerts the will of a political agenda

                here we are talking about an affront to basic moral sensibility

                complete, utterly, totally fucking unrelated things

                furthermore, a law is not a piece of comptuer code, it is made to be interpreted by human beings. a law can be stretched to an extreme, sure, but if it is done in the service of justice, which this case obviously cries out for, then the law is still doing the job it was intended to do

                you have this really strange notion of what a law is and its

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            -From nedlohs:
            "One person getting away with something is completely irrelevant - and in the grand scheme of things completely unimportant. Just pretend they never found out "who dun it" like with thousands of other crimes if it makes you feel better."

            Well I would love to see how unimportant this is in the "grand scheme of things" when it is your son/daughter/dog, whatever most /.ers have relationships with. I'm sure you'll be really proud of your kid for setting a standard for a new law.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Kintanon (65528)

      Maybe you should make sure you're putting the correct person on trial here.
      "The Woman" who actually typed the messages and talked the girl into killing herself is immune from prosecution because she agreed to testify against Lori Drew. Ms. Drew was not the originator of any of the messages from the fictional boy to the girl.
      Examining the available facts indicates that this was an activity which Ms. Drew's assistant and daughter engaged in.

      • the facts i read them show her to be the originator of the messages, not the assistant or the daughter. every convicted murderer or rapist likewise wan't there or was tricked in to
        the crime

        but we shall soon see, as the case proceeds in a court of law, won't we?

        but thanks for your helping of bias

        • by Kintanon (65528)

          I like how everyone who disagrees with you on any topic is filled with bias, while you are the one true observer. It's cute.

          And to tag team this post as a reply to Csartanis below me:
          You'll notice that TFA quotes Susan Prouty, a former client of Ms. Drew who may or may not be reliable, have an axe to grind etc... Her testimony will come under examination soon enough. I still think that based on the actual evidence available that Ms. Drew is not the one who should be punished for this. If new evidence comes

    • Thanks for this. I was really inspired by the bottom-quote today, in light of most of the responses to this article:

      The more I see of men the more I admire dogs. -- Mme De Sevigne, 1626-1696

      I don't know if context is the most important part of this, although it's more relevant than other issues brought forth. (Emo kids? GW Bush? Fuck me...) The real issue here is the abuse -- abuse to death!!! -- of another person. I personally don't care what the mechanic of that abuse was: MySpace, stalking, kidnapping,

      • on nov 19, a 19 yo guy committed suicide live on webcam

        1,500 people watched, with LOLs and hahaha and "go ahead and do it, faggot"

        sometimes, humanity is a pretty heady combination of disgusting and low iq

        my disgust is such that i fantasize right now of faking a videofeed of a suicide, tracking the ip of anyone who LOLs at it, finding them, and peeling their skin off with a razor blade. such is my disgust at such utterly fucktarded trolls. finding and doing greivous bodily harm to these assholes is the only

    • by itsdapead (734413)

      in other words, an adult willfully manipulated an emotionally unstable minor over a prolonged period of time with the intent of causing her psychological harm

      But thats not what she is being prosecuted for. Go read the NYT article: "Missouri law enforcement officials said they had not found enough evidence to bring charges in the case". I think its still traditional in some states that you need evidence to convict someone.

      Consequently, she's being prosecuted for computer fraud - although its perfectly clear why she's really in court, and the prosecution has already made damn sure the jury knows that this is about a dead kid.

      if the law is limited to the context of an adult purposefully causing psychological harm over a prolonged period of time...

      The only "laws" involved in this case

  • im going to make this simple for all of you calling for murder charges. YOU DO NOT CHARGE SOMEONE FOR A MURDER IN A CLEAR CASE OF SUICIDE. Lori Drew did not put the noose around her neck and jump, the little girl MADE THAT CHOICE. While we may not like it and feel we need to do SOMETHING, there is nothing to be done, the girl made her choice.
  • Just started reading the indictment, and I came across something that struck me as curious. There is a section called "Computer Terminology" that gives the plaintiff's version of a definition of "Internet Service Provider":

    ...offer their customers access to the Internet using telephone or other... provide e-mail accounts... remotely store electronic files on behalf of their customers, and may provide other services unique to each particular ISP.

    (Emphasis mine). I thought the bit about storing electronic

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