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Monsters in Court

CATEGORY: Bullying, Monsters, Struggle

DIVISION: Modern Evil

EDITORIAL: Bullies are the common monsters of daily life, and a vital metaphor for our personal journeys. But the truth about our conquering quests, as Hollywood movies confirm time and again, is that the victories are few while the defeats are many. Casualties from monster battles litter the landscape. So what to do in defeat? Litigate, of course!

MySpace Bullying Led to Teenage Suicide, Court Hears

By The Guardian

A teenage girl hanged herself after being taunted by messages on her MySpace account, an American court has heard, in a case that could have wide-reaching ramifications for social networking websites.

Prosecutors say Megan Meier, 13, from Missouri, killed herself after receiving nasty messages that she believed had come from a teenage boy but had actually been written by Lori Drew, 49.

The trial is being billed as America's first cyber-bullying prosecution and a potential precedent for punishing online harassment.

In his opening statement to jurors in Los Angeles, the prosecutor, Thomas O'Brien, said Drew, her daughter and an employee of Drew's "hatched a plot to prey on the psyche" of a girl she knew was "vulnerable, suicidal and boy-crazy".

The court heard that Drew posed as a teenage boy named Josh Evans on MySpace and exchanged messages with Megan.

"Her purpose was to tease Megan Meier, to tease her, to humiliate her and to hurt her," O'Brien said. "One of her plans was to print out the conversations and take it to Megan's school and let people make fun of this depressed 13-year-old girl."

Megan's mother, Tina Meier, told the court that late in 2006 she found her daughter "sitting at the computer crying" after getting into an online dispute with "Josh Evans" and a couple of girls.

"She said, 'They're saying mean, horrible things about me,'" Tina Meier testified. "I told her to get off (MySpace)."

Less than an hour later she found her daughter hanged in the closet. Megan had struggled for years with depression and school bullying.

O'Brien told the court that after Megan received a message saying the world would be better off without her, she sent a response saying: "You are the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over."

Drew's defence lawyer, Dean Steward, told jurors his client did not violate the Computer Use and Fraud Act, used in the past to address computer hacking, and reminded them Drew was not facing charges dealing with the suicide.

"This is not a homicide case," he said.

Drew has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing computers without authorisation. Each count carries a potential sentence of five years in prison.

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