Judge Likely To Exclude Evidence Of Suicide In Lori Drew Lawsuit

from the makes-at-least-some-sense dept

We've already pointed out how ridiculous it was that prosecutors charged Lori Drew with violating computer hacking laws. It was, quite clearly, a case where prosecutors were stretching the use of the law beyond its intention in order to file any charges in an emotionally-charged case. Drew, of course, is the woman who many people blame for the eventual suicide of teenager Megan Meier. Drew had created a fake MySpace account to see what Meier was saying about Drew's own daughter -- who had been friends with Meier. A few different people had access to the MySpace account, and eventually created a false persona of a boy who became friendly with Meier. In an effort to end things before it went too far, a friend of Drew's daughter tried to cut off conversation by being especially mean to Meier, which may have lead to her committing suicide. Meier's suicide is tragic, no doubt, but to go from there to charging Drew with computer hacking for creating a fake profile would set a very dangerous precedent. It could open up almost anyone to felony charges. No matter what you think of Drew or her actions, it's ridiculous to support this lawsuit.

While the judge in the case decided not to dismiss the case, he apparently has decided that evidence of Meier's suicide will not be allowed in the case. This, at least, is a good decision. The lawsuit itself has nothing to do with the suicide, and allowing it to be used in front of a jury would likely lead to the same emotional response that resulted in the original charges being filed. Of course, with the case getting so much widespread publicity, you'd have to imagine that many jury members will already be familiar with what happened in the case.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    TriZz, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 10:29am

    ...is it a stretch?

    I'm not sure what the government's definition of "hacking", but I generally have two definitions that I think of:

    - Gaining unauthorized access to a computer or network.
    - Making something work beyond it's intended purpose.

    Either of those fit. The use of a fake profile on myspace goes against the ToS (which I know isn't law). It is "unauthorized access to a network.

    Also, the intended purpose of a myspace profile isn't for anything other than yourself...thus making it work beyond that.

    Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying that making a fake profile on myspace and being a b**ch should be considered a felony...but is "hacking" really all that much of a stretch?

     

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  2.  
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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Nov 11th, 2008 @ 10:38am

    Re: ...is it a stretch?

    I would argue that those are definitions of "Cracking", rather than "Hacking". "Cracking" is bad, while "Hacking" is morally neutral.

     

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  3.  
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    Daniel, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 10:41am

    Re: ...is it a stretch?

    Yes, it is. Usage of some publicly-available service in a way that doesn't fit the service's own arbitrary terms of service is quite a bit different than breaking into something. To think that there is even any sort of comparison is pretty much completely ridiculous.

    I hope you never sit on a jury (or get anywhere near a courtroom for that matter).

     

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  4.  
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    Daniel, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: ...is it a stretch?

    That debate is pretty clear-cut... "cracking" is attempting to break or circumvent some sort of software/network security while "hacking" is really just sitting at home and programming yourself.

     

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  5.  
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    TriZz, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Re: ...is it a stretch

    I'm going to answer you all at once...

    Gaining unauthorized access to a computer or network is NOT ONLY cracking. Cracking is a form of hacking. Does it matter if I pick the lock or break the window, either way...it's still breaking & entering.

    ...and neither of you have mentioned my second definition. Making something work beyond it's intended purpose (such as having an iPhone run on T-Mobile's network.)

    As for the guy who says he never hopes I sit on a jury, that was really unnecessary. We're having a conversation here...this isn't Digg. Please refrain from snide remarks when your input isn't even really all that useful.

    Thanks,
    TriZz

     

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  6.  
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    Fsm, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: ...is it a stretch

    @TriZz

    No. It's not even remotely the same.

    Making a fake Myspace is as much hacking as the guy who 'hacked' into Sarah Palin's yahoo account.

    They aren't in the same ballpark. It's not even the same fucking game!

     

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  7.  
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    Joe Rider, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:19am

    'Joe Rider' isn't my real name

    I hate to think about all the Terms of Service that I have never read, and will never read. I'm sure I have violated a lot of things in them. Does it mean that I should have charges filed against me as a "hacker?" If anything, it seems as though it should be a civil matter for breaking a contract.

    I think Lori Drew has paid a high enough consequence for her behavior...she has been forever branded, and will never be seen as a normal person again.

    As for the original poster of "Is it a stretch" -- yes, that is a huge stretch of logic. If you have a valid user name and password, I wouldn't consider it to be "unauthorized access to a network." Maybe it is "falsifying information in order to gain access to a network" -- but certainly the existence of a valid user name and password is proof of authority to access said network.

    Do you realize that part of every ToS is a phrase along the lines of "we may modify this agreement from time to time." Myspace's continues and says "Your continued use of the MySpace Service after MySpace posts a revised Agreement signifies your acceptance of the revised Agreement."

    Are we really expected to read the ToS of everything we use ever time we use it to make sure the rules haven't changed? If we don't, we are in jeopardy of "unauthorized access to a network" by your logic.

     

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  8.  
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    Duane (profile), Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: ...is it a stretch

    Actually I'd argue that TriZz's definitions are probably what many people think of when they think of hacking. Sure, if you think about it logically, you can see where it shouldn't apply everytime, but I bet a lot of companies would love to have a court say they were the accurate definitions of hacking. The chilling effect would be unbelievable.

    But that's precisely why this is so alarming. The common perception might carry the day despite commonsense saying that would be a horrible idea on a level with drowning kittens and granting patents for ideas and concepts.

     

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  9.  
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    Twinrova, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:41am

    Another idiot. Another waste of taxpayer money.

    The people of the state should stand up and have this judge disbarred for allowing such a waste of taxpayer money to continue.

    Instead, they're all "yeah, that'll teach the stupid bitch! Rot in hell!".

    That is, until the law turns on them in the same manner.

     

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  10.  
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    Fushta, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:47am

    Leaving out the suicide part?

    Why would the judge leave out the suicde part?

    If the girl hadn't killed herself, no one would've cared about this incident. The only reason that Lori Drew is on trial is because of the end result. To leave that out of the court is removing the whole purpose for being there in the first place.

    Am I wrong?

     

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  11.  
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    jonnyq, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:54am

    Re: ...is it a stretch?

    You're arguing that violating a site's terms of service = unauthorized access to a network = violation of hacking law, and that's dumb.

    "Making something work beyond it's intended purpose". Does that mean that you're a criminal if you hack the HTML in your profile - or does it just mean that you violated the TOS and you can get banned?

    You have to use a little thought.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:56am

    Re: Leaving out the suicide part?

    yes.

    that is a highly emotional response. the actions leading up to the suicide are important. I.E. is signing up to a site with a false name illegal? among other things.

    it sounds to me she should be tried for harrasment at best. but when you bring in the suicide you end up with emotional responses that follow the patter of "she did X and Y happened unexpectedly! it should be illegal to do X."

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 12:10pm

    Yeah, your right.. But who wants to defend Drew?

    From an ethical and moral standpoint Drew is about the most filthiest piece of slime you will come across. This approach just reflects that the parents are more or less looking for some kind of a revenge (maybe even rightfully so). I could care less if the judge decided Drew is in voilation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and threw her in jail for years. I would hope the courts would not make this case the precedent for all cases to follow if that happened.

    Bottom line, This is not going to bring Megan back. If dropping a sledge hammer on Drews head would bring Megan back I would be the first to say, "Drop away". I dont blame the parents for wanting some kind of revenge. I think most anyone in their place would do the same. But to look at Drew, it should be obvious the only thing she can break into is a bag of patato chips. If the parents are looking for revenge I dont think they are going to be satisfied with the results of this case. I think the parents understand they really are reaching on this one. But I doubt they care. And all I can say is, "Who can blame them"?

     

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  14.  
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    ehrichweiss, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: ...is it a stretch?

    Actually your definition does not in fact represent hacking or cracking. The GP was much closer in stating that crackers are considered "bad" while hackers do not typically align themselves in a moral sense. Hacking in and of itself from the viewpoint of the majority of society(at the present, anyway) is "bad" simply because we have a thirst for what that same society might refer to as forbidden knowledge.

     

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  15.  
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    Paul, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 12:22pm

    there has to be something else

    There has to be something else thats more fitting to charge her with. Hell, technically (though i'm not supporting it) manslaughter would make more sense. Drew did something that accidentally led to the death of another person. Though, I suppose that would require proof that the girl killed herself due to the myspace page thing. I'm not an expert on the situation, so I can't say if she left a note or not, maybe someone else would know more about that. Isn't there any sort of law against harassing children? or inciting harm to minors?

     

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  16.  
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    Paul, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: ...is it a stretch?

    I always felt that hacking was just messing around with things. I mean, VS even has a "HACK:" commenting ability so it'll add the comment to your todo list so you can eventually fix the 'hack.' The OP was closer with their second definition I think. Its not necessarily wrong or illegal though. There's plenty of hacking thats perfectly legal. I suggest checking out makezine.com. So, I don't think the second definition can be used so you can apply a hacking law. Its really only the first and then you have the controversy of what makes you authorized to access a network or not. Did Drew "hack" MySpace? While I think she should be tarred and feathered, I don't think she should be charged with this specific crime. As I stated in another post, there must be something else that would be more fitting and if there isn't, you can either make a new one (which is a double-edged sword... may do more harm than good) and hope it doesn't happen again or just sigh and say "oh well," and hope that maybe someday the Punisher will jump out of the comic books and do the dirty work.

     

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  17.  
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    Paul, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 12:29pm

    Re: Leaving out the suicide part?

    its the intent and action itself that should be punished, not the outcome of said action. If what she did wasn't illegal if the girl didn't kill herself, then it still shouldn't be illegal now. That kinda just proves the point that they're charging her with the incorrect crime.

     

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  18.  
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    ehrichweiss, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Re: ...is it a stretch?

    Actually, a violation of the ToS can be considered unauthorized access to a network. I don't have to state in the ToS for my system that using it for fraud or harassment will result in me seeking your head in a court of law. All I have to say is that creating an account for those purposes is a violation of the Terms of Service. The law doesn't make my only recourse in that instance to be simply removing your account. It becomes up to the courts to determine if you have broken the law. In my case, I charge $150+/hr so the moment I pass the 2hr mark in dealing with any mess you create for me, you are guilty of felony theft of services if you are accessing my network in violation of my ToS. Circumventing measures I have taken to determine if you are a real person do in fact count as evidence if you are facing charges of fraudulent use of my network.

    Lori Drew didn't make Myspace "work beyond its intended purpose", she created fake accounts with intent to, at the very least, defame Megan.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Leaving out the suicide part?

    @ Fushta:

    So you're saying driving drunk really should be legal so long as no one dies?

    If its only wrong because she died then the logic behind it is questionable. Note: This is why you have attempted rape/assault/murder charges or even endangerment charges. It is more than safe to say that people trolling the internet don't know if someone will kill themselves. Some are callous enough to truly wish it, others if it actually happened would get sick.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: ...is it a stretch?

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought name calling was different than defamation.

    The fake persona "rejected" Megan as a girl friend when it started to go too far. If that was the purpose of the account I can't say. That's one reason to have the trial, some people think that was the only point and want her punished.

    As far as I recall there weren't instances of the fake persona saying to all of Megan's friends that she was a "dumb whore" or anything.

     

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  21.  
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    Fushta, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Re: Leaving out the suicide part?

    All I'm saying is that no one would've ever known she created the false account if the girl was still alive.

    Is the judge going to demand that MySpace give all of the false names so they can face the same legal action? No, they won't, because it is harmless to create a false name.

    Again, if they disconnect the suicide from the facts, there is no crime.

     

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  22.  
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    Nobody, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Re: Leaving out the suicide part?

    Uhhh, no.

    Driving Drunk is illegal. If you kill someone while doing it, then you charged with additional criminal counts (manslaughter, reckless endangerment, whatever...)

    If driving while drunk was legal, then your comment would make sense, but it doesn't and so neither do you.

     

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  23.  
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    AC, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 1:52pm

    Re: Yeah, your right.. But who wants to defend Drew?

    I could care less if the judge decided Drew is in voilation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and threw her in jail for years.

    Assuming you meant to say that you couldn't care less, I would say that this attitude is nothing short of pathetic. Are you actually saying that you think it's OK to twist the law in certain cases as long as it results in the verdict that you think is appropriate?


    I would hope the courts would not make this case the precedent for all cases to follow if that happened.

    That's what courts do; they use previous verdicts to set a precedent. That's why it's so important to have people who do care about the long term effects of the judicial system involved in it.

     

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  24.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Leaving out the suicide part?

    it sounds to me she should be tried for harras[s]ment at best.

    Under what law?

     

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  25.  
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    Daniel, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 3:06pm

    Hacking? No.

    Fraud, yes.

     

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  26.  
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    Celes, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Leaving out the suicide part?

    "Again, if they disconnect the suicide from the facts, there is no crime."

    That's exactly the point. There IS NO CRIME.

    What Drew (and apparently some other kids) did was mean, spiteful, and very, very wrong. But wrong is not necessarily illegal, and vice versa.

     

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  27.  
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    Celes, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:43pm

    Re: Leaving out the suicide part?

    I'm pretty sure that the judge is trying to make sure Drew is tried only for the crime in question. The girl's suicide has absolutely zero to do with the crime Drew is charged with.

    That's like being on trial for forging checks - what you did with them (paying bills, feeding your kid, buying puppies to suffocate, etc.) has nothing to do with whether you did indeed forge the signature. You're not on trial for suffocating puppies, no matter how many people think you're a horrible person for it.

     

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  28.  
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    Chad, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:39pm

    well..

    Nothing illegal was done (apart from the most ridiculous, using some guy's photo without his permission, attempts to seduce a minor over the internet, blah blah blah), and yet what everyone is saying is that "something" should be done. Well will anything be done if legal action isn't taken? I mean a kid is dead, a family is broken apart, friendships are lost, and in the end NOTHING happens?

    Although the suicide is being left out, I've seen criminals charged with the most bizarre of harassment charges and yet they feel there is no case in that.. instead, they're grasping at straws.

    In the end I don't think much will come of this. The woman's name will be slandered again, and I'm sure she feels pretty rotten in any case.

    Creating a myspace account to pose as a lover to a 13 year old in the attempts to spy information out of her about your daughter to get the dirt (or the compliments?) about her is a LITTLE strange in my opinion. Might not be illegal, but it sure is strange.

     

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  29.  
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    Amanda, Nov 12th, 2008 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: ...is it a stretch?

    From the way that I understand it Cracking is hacking!Point is what she did was wrong. She used myspace for some thing other then its purpose.

     

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  30.  
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    Amanda, Nov 12th, 2008 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Another idiot. Another waste of taxpayer money.

    You would not be saying that if it was you 13 year old baby that this happen to. I know that if it was my child I would want every thing that could be done done. Drew should have known better. Just because she did not tie the shirt around her neck does not mean she did not help her do it. She is just as guilty rather it be morally or legally. So she cant be jailed for comments made. Well that does not mean she should get away with it! What she did may be a stretch, but it is a stretch that is deserved. yes she is forever branded and has paid a very high price for her behavior, but Megan and her family has paid an even higher price. When you stop and think is this really a waste, also think; what if Megan was my daughter. Something more needs to be done. I think Drew is getting off lucky, in my opinion she should have been charged with murder!!!

     

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  31.  
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    Amanda, Nov 12th, 2008 @ 3:34pm

    Re: Re: Leaving out the suicide part?

    How do you think laws come about? they are not always thought up and put into action. when something like this happens you are forced to look at the facts and determine if it is in fact should or should not become a law.

     

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  32.  
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    anymouse government worker, Nov 12th, 2008 @ 4:49pm

    lawyer rant on

    "Are you actually saying that you think it's OK to twist the law in certain cases as long as it results in the verdict that you think is appropriate?"

    Isn't this the only reason lawyers exist? To get the law twisted in such a way that they get the outcome they desire? If the law itself was clear and everyone understood it, there would be no need for lawyers (not that there is currently a real need for them, yes I'm biased), the people involved would walk into court, stand before the judge, explain what happened, one party would state that they screwed up and should have known better, the judge would decide an appropriate 'settlement' and the parties would go on their way.

    "That's what courts do; they use previous verdicts to set a precedent. That's why it's so important to have people who do care about the long term effects of the judicial system involved in it."

    As soon as we get some of those people who 'care about the long term effects of the judicial system' involved, we'll be alot better off than we currently are, because all I see are greedy money grubbing lawyers creating and fostering a hostile environment of litigation (and why not, they are the only ones who benefit regardless of the result of the litigation - the lawyers for the plaintiff and defendant both get paid regardless of the outcome, excluding ambulance chasers that work on a commission basis).

     

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