In the ultimate proof that law is not a popularity contest, U.S. District Judge George H. Wu has tossed out the conviction of the much-despised Lori Drew — the woman behind the cyber-bully case that led to the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier.
Like most every legal and non-legal blog, we have been following the case from the time of the 2006 suicide. From the outset, I viewed the criminal charges as questionable and threatening of protected speech. What I could not understand — and still do not understand — is why the parents did not sue civilly in tort.
The jury found Drew guilty on November 26th of the three misdemeanor charges of illegally accessing a protected computer. Drew had assumed the identity of a boy named “Josh Evans” that, after getting Megan to fall for Josh, proceeded to crush her. All of this was over Drew’s juvenile reaction to what she perceived as an insult to her own daughter.
Judge Wu appears to have made his decision on the basis as a matter of law rather than fact. This will raise questions of why he let the case go to jury in the first place since the defense challenged the original indictment. If Judge Wu now objects to the legal and constitutional basis for the charges, those concerns were equally evident at the arraignment hearing.
Some judges will let cases go to the jury in the hope that the jury will acquit — avoiding an appeal on the basis of a legal judgment. Such legal rulings are not given deference on the appellate court but are rather subject to a de novo standard. Other judges do not want to spare someone like Drew from having to face a trial or see the need for a public trial — even though they harbor questions about the legality of the charges. Then there are many good faith cases where a judge simply did not fully consider the legitimacy of the charges — or the illegitimacy became more evident during the trial. A sentencing will sometimes serve to concentrate the mind of the Court and prompt a second look at an earlier challenge. It is possible that Judge Wu wanted to see if the government could establish a compelling factual basis in the case that would alleviate his concerns over his legal concerns. Those concerns were evident before trial and clearly were not alleviated by the end.
In any case, Drew will now walk free — an thoroughly repellent character, though she is not alone in guilt over this tragic death. This will remain a tragedy where there was no legal recourse — at least no recourse secured by either the parents or the government.
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4 thoughts on “Court Throws Out Lori Drew Conviction”
Is this not the problem with the 13th Juror? OMG
“This will remain a tragedy where there was no legal recourse — at least no recourse secured by either the parents or the government.”
“During the first two centuries of this Nation’s history much of our law was developed by judges in the common-law tradition. A basic principle animating our jurisprudence was enshrined in state constitution provisions guaranteeing, in substance, that “every wrong shall have a remedy.” Fashioning appropriate remedies for the violation of rules of law designed to protect a class of citizens was the routine business of judges. See Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 166 (1803). While it is true that in the early days state law was the source of most of those rules, throughout our history–until 1975–the same practice prevailed in federal courts with regard to federal statutes that left questions of remedy open for judges to answer. In Texas & Pacific R. Co. v. Rigsby, 241 U. S. 33, 39 (1916), this Court stated the following:
“A disregard of the command of the statute is a wrongful act, and where it results in damage to one of the class for whose especial benefit the statute was enacted, the right to recover the damages from the party in default is implied, according to a doctrine of the common law expressed in 1 Com. Dig., tit. Action upon Statute (F), in these words: ‘So, in every case, where a statute enacts, or prohibits a thing for the benefit of a person, he shall have a remedy upon the same statute for the thing enacted for his advantage, or for the recompense of a wrong done to him contrary to the said law.’ (Per Holt, C. J., Anon., 6 Mod. 26, 27.)”
–Justice John Paul Stevens dissenting in STONERIDGE INVESTMENT PARTNERS, LLC v. SCIENTIFIC-ATLANTA, INC., et al., 552 U.S. ___ (2008)(footnotes omitted).
Do the parents still have the civil suit option or did the statute of limitations run already? I would think that a civil action would be much more productive and hit this nutjob where it hurts.
“Judge Wu appears to have made his decision on the basis as a matter of law rather than fact.”
An excellent tactical decision by Judge Wu; punt it right to the Appellate Court and let them have at the prosecutors for stretching the bounds of reason itself in concocting such a nonsensical case.
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