Judge Tosses Out Lori Drew Ruling

from the wow dept

The Lori Drew verdict finding her guilty of computer hacking because she may have broken MySpace’s terms of service (without even having read them) was a classic example of prosecutors trying to stretch the law to punish someone who did something they didn’t like, but which wasn’t against the law. The implications of the ruling were quite troubling, in that they could turn almost anyone into a criminal if prosecutors wanted to charge them as such. For months, though, the judge in the case has been weighing whether or not to overturn the ruling. It’s not clear why it took so long, but the judge has in fact acquitted Drew on the three charges she was found guilty of by the jury. This is good news all around. No matter what you think of Drew and what she did, prosecutors twisted the law in a way that would have set an amazingly dangerous precedent. It will be interesting to see if there’s an appeal, but for now, this is undeniably good news.

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Comments on “Judge Tosses Out Lori Drew Ruling”

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69 Comments
another mike (profile) says:

IANAL, but i play one online

Just like ex post facto protected her against the flurry of “arrest lori” laws, double jeopardy is lori’s safe haven now. Unless the prosecutors have new evidence that significantly impacts the facts of the case. and if they had any real evidence against her, they should’ve used it at the first trial.
This is a major win for rule of law. Hopefully this case will establish a precedent; just because the loud ones are morally outraged by a tragic set of circumstances, doesn’t make it illegal.

Rob (profile) says:

It's about time...

Lori Drew is the scum of the Earth, but it is very disheartening to see the legal system make up laws to prosecute her. It is not up to the courts to decide what is and is not moral behavior, it is up to them to determine whether or not certain behavior is within the scope of the law. Unfortunately in this case (I would love to see Lori Drew pay for what she did just as much as anyone), there is no way to charge Lori Drew with anything without setting a dangerous precedent.

Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: It's about time...

she did a bad thing. Scum though? Honestly, there are less trolls online than there are offline – see scientology, fundies, christianity, Basji, world bank, kim jong il, etc. I’d hardly call an internet troll someone who’s scum. May as well call them griefers as that may be more befitting for those who understand the term.

Michael Whitetail says:

Re: Re: Re: It's about time...

Yes, yes it would be.

Without Christianity, hunderds of millions of poeple:

Wouldn’t have been burned to death as witches and warlocks Wouldn’t have been raped in pilaged in the various holy wars over the centuries.
Nieghbors wouldn’t have murdered each other over religious differences.
Socieities like the Jesuits wouldn’t have become sanctioned assassins of the church, murdering for political profit in the name of ‘the one true god’

But, yeah, your right. We would never have had things like medicine and education without the Chruch who forced western socieity into the Dark Ages buy killing as many scientists and philosophers as they could *rolleyes*

Our scientific, educational, and democratic foundation of our current society came from the polytheistic Greeks circa 3000 BC.

So bow down, Christian, and thank your so-called god that mere pagans forged the basis of what allows you now to practice your faith without fear of being murdered for it.

[My appologies for the hideous spelling errors]

tdr says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's about time...

Oh, and you’re not generalizing, too? Sorry, but you are. Human nature is what it is, regardless of where you think our society came from. Why do you automatically equate the acts of “believers” with the faith itself, when the faith itself prohibits those very things? It was a twisting of that faith by those who were supposed to uphold it that allowed those things to happen, if at all. But then I suppose you believe the DVC is real despite the wide assortment of evidence to the contrary.

Basically, don’t look to the “followers” to measure the faith, but look to the faith to measure the followers. And you’ll find that many of the faith would not condone the aforementioned practices in any way, if you bothered to stop generalizing long enough to open your eyes.

Hate seems to blind you, why I don’t know, but it clearly does. Perhaps you should take time to learn what the faith actually says before you bash it? There is no more misinterpreted, misrepresented, and misunderstood faith in the world than true Biblical Christianity. And it makes perfect sense that it is so, given the nature of this world and of our own selves.

Lettuce (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's about time...

She wasn’t just a troll – she spent weeks “befriending” this girl and printing off all the private secrets that Megan gave her to her daughter, who shared them behind Megan’s back with all the other kids at school. Megan was teased, bulled, and beat up for weeks without knowing how all her peers knew her most private secrets and fears. Ms. Drew was on very friendly terms with Megan’s family and KNEW before-hand that she was suicidal and had been in therapy and on medicine for chronic depression since third grade.

She didn’t just *troll* – she used the MySpace account to befriend, betray, and attack a thirteen year-old girl. Including several conversations deeply sexual in nature – how they didn’t charge a forty year-old woman with something along those lines, I don’t know!

The night that the girl committed suicide was the night that Lori, her daughter Sarah, and a woman they hired on named Ashley “betrayed” Megan, flipping from “friend” to enemy mode and attacking her for anything they could think of, ending with the statement that the world would be better off without her and that Megan’s entire life would be shit forever – and “he” would know, being her “boyfriend.”

An hour later when the ambulance pulled up to Megan’s house, Lori had the account deleted immediately. Later she attended the funeral, offered support to Megan’s grieving parents, and then, in a police interview, said she didn’t feel guilty at all about the suicide since the girl was already depressed.

This was no simple troll – I agree that something has to be done, but I would have taken it from the POV of the emotional/mental damage this woman did to a venerable child – and if NOTHING else that she KNOWINGLY contacted a 13 year-old and engaged in lengthy sexual conversations / mild cybering for months.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's about time...

Maybe you should learn more about the case. Lori Drew didn’t do most of what you just said happened. She just condoned it, knowing that it was going on. Her teenage employee did just about everything you just mentioned. The problem was the teenage/adult employee was given immunity for testifying against Lori Drew, even though it was that same teenage/adult that was leading the girl on, and wrote the final statement that caused the girl to finally commit suicide.

Trolls like lettuce drive me fricking crazy!

RobII says:

Re: It's about time...

“It is not up to the courts to decide what is and is not moral behavior, it is up to them to determine whether or not certain behavior is within the scope of the law.”

Goodness, what selective ethics we have here… I doubt Masnick or the rest of the lemmings would dare say the same thing about copyright theft.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's about time...

Copyright theft? Sorry, but that seems to be absent from the law, so I’m not sure what you’re trying to argue.

If you mean copyright infringement…well, then guys like Masnick argue the exact same thing: it’s up to the courts to decide what is and isn’t infringement. And hopefully change the laws so that less and less becomes infringement.

Either way, you don’t have much of a point, despite your snide attempts at discrediting people.

Anonymous Coward says:

The conviction was flawed from the beginning. That conviction made nearly every internet user a potential criminal for not following a content provider’s TOS. According to Google’s TOS you must be 18 to use its products thus making my children prosecutable for computer hacking for simply looking up sports scores or doing research for homework. The judge did the right thing and was smart to wait for public furor to die down before overturning the convictions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Even the media wants her dead. One article called the acquittal a “stunning move”. No doubt the full court press will be on to re-reverse this before it’s made final with the media lambasting the judge all the way. It’s amazing how much of a disconnect there is between those in the tech world and those outside it.

Cheese McBeese says:

Bittersweet

A few points:

1. I agree passionately and wholeheartedly with the outcome. I don’t see that this judge had any other choice. The crime of bending the law to compensate for an incompetent prosecution would push us all down a dark and slippery slope.

2. IMHO, Lori Drew is a sick and twisted stalker b*tch. Yes, I know that her accomplice said “it was mostly me” once she was offered immunity, but I don’t buy it and in any case, I don’t think it matters. Lori Drew is a 50-year-old hag who had no business even just allowing this tragedy with a 13-year-old girl to occur. If Lori Drew had simply acted like a real person and said “No, this is wrong, let’s not do it”, an obviously troubled 13-year old might have lived long enough to get her scrambled brain back in order. It makes me feel sick knowing that Lori Drew is getting off without any penalty other than everyone knows her true character now. I hope that causes her a lot of grief. Ok, I’ve said my piece and I’m done with Lori Drew.

3. I believe the prosecution’s failure in this case is yet another example of the problems created when empowered government organizations can’t keep up with technology. It seems like they didn’t know how to try this case and as a result they totally botched it. Our government is FULL of people in positions of power who don’t have a clue how to deal with the Internet. So how do they govern? They fly by the seat of their pants or they listen to lobbyists! Yikes!

Michael Whitetail (profile) says:

Re: Bittersweet

Regardless of what you feel about her, she has a right to free speech as long as it isn’t some sort of hate speech. Vilify her all you want, but she is nothing more than an average internet troll. If you want to witness real trolling, visit the random board at 4chan for a day or two and then consider who is more fitting of being scum for simple internet speech.

The law is the law, and cannot be biased, even in such an emotional case. Is it sad and tragic that a 13 yr old took her own life? Yes it is. Is it criminal what Lori did? Not by any strech of the imagination. Freedom of speech boils down to a simple dictum: To protect the ability to say what I want, I have to protect your ability to say what you want, whether I like it or not.

No matter how much you want Lori to suffer and die, no matter how hard you wish for her to be locked away forever, the law cannot allow it because she did nothing wrong in the eyes of the law! And as an aside, it shows how right we are to have laws, because if we left it up to the hate bandwagoner’s, she’d be lynched and hung without a thought.

Cheese McBeese says:

Re: Re: Bittersweet

@47 – You cannot say that Lori Drew did nothing wrong in the eyes of the law. All you can say is that so far she hasn’t been convicted of anything. The prosecutors simply suffer from the same kind of Internet incompetence as the RIAA and MPAA, otherwise Lori Drew would be in jail, IMHO.

Ms. Escape says:

What about manslaughter charges? The woman knowingly verbally abused the girl with the knowledge that she was emotionally disturbed. Who cares that it took place online. Now, instead of having to come up with witnesses, everything she said is in print! It should be easy to prove that this woman had an agenda, why else would she create a fake account?

I don’t see why the prosecution is stretching itself to use internet and computer law when it doesn’t need it. This is not really a computer crime, it’s abuse and intent to cause the death of a person.

Cheese McBeese says:

Re: Re:

@20 – if a 13-year-old girl were standing on the ledge of a building, teetering on the edge of jumping, and a 50-year old man whom she cared for greatly leaned out the window and told her that her life was a waste and everyone would be better off if she jumped, would that be a crime if she jumped to her death?

I honestly have no idea if that’s a crime, but if the answer is ‘yes’, that’s how I think the prosecutors should have framed this case. The Internet was merely a convenient communications medium.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The woman knowingly verbally abused the girl with the knowledge that she was emotionally disturbed”

She did? I wasn’t aware of evidence that she knew the girl was emotionally disturbed. FYI, in case you aren’t aware, to be emotionally disturbed the girl MUST have been CLINICALLY DIAGNOSED as such. So it follows that to KNOW the girl was emotionally disturbed, Lori MUST know that she’d been clinically diagnosed. I may have missed it, but I wasn’t aware of any evidence Lori knew this.

“Now, instead of having to come up with witnesses, everything she said is in print! It should be easy to prove that this woman had an agenda, why else would she create a fake account?”

Nice in theory, but not useful in law. There were two people using that “fake” account, and there is some discrepancy over who created the account to begin with. Not calling witnesses would also remove the 2nd person using the account, who claimed responsiblity for most of the actions in question once granted immunity. A win for the prosecution but how does that serve justice?

“This is not really a computer crime, it’s abuse and intent to cause the death of a person.”

You’re right it’s not a computer crime, and it’s the lack of intent, or “malice aforethought” as the law refers to it, that precludes the manslaughter charge. Intent to murder or cause harm != manslaughter.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You’re right, only took a marginal interest in it. Any citations you can point me to that discuss her knowing the girl had been clinically diagnosed as emotionally disturbed?

The rest of my point stands. I don’t think, unless I’m not reading the law correctly, that you can charge someone w/manslaughter AND state that they had malicious intent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Did she? Did she, really? Citation, please, since the linked article says that they could not prove any intent to cause harm. How do you /KNOW/ that she knew and didn’t care? How can you prove it? Since you can’t, I suggest you shut the fuck up.

Grills admits to creating the account, having the most interaction, AND sending the message that presumably caused Megan to commit suicide. This was all an emotionally-charged witch hunt by the prosecutors. Start reading.

Cheese McBeese says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

@33:

1. Proving intent to cause harm is not required for manslaughter. Negligent behavior is all it takes.

2. Yes, it is on record that she knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it.

3. Lori Drew is a 5o year old fugly, she was a participant in what was going on, and the victim of the harassment was a minor. That should be enough to nail her ass to the wall. At a minimum, CPS should evaluate her fitness as a parent.

billnaples (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: READ IT ALL

Sorry I wasn’t here earlier to pitch my coin into the debate. I did follow this story quite closely I think. Yes Lori Drew knoew of Megan’s mental issues. The fake JOsh was set up by the immunized Ashley Grills. But so many stated so correctly, these charges had NOTHING ti do with bullying, stalking, manslaughter, or anything else except a violation of the ToS of MySpace. They were the “offended” party, that’s why the trial was in LA. But overwhelmingly I keep asking you all where was Tina Meier? She supposedly “closely” monitored and approved of her child’s use of the illegal entry to MySpace. She apparently approved of her fragile minded 13 year old girl on medication having a “relationship” with an unknown 16 year old boy. The fact that the boy turned out to be a phoney only emphasizes Tina’s mistake. And remember, the suicide took place after an arguement between Tina and MEgan about the youngster not getting Mom;s support over the “breakup” with a ‘boy’ she never met.

Cheese McBeese says:

Re: Re: Re:

@22 – manslaughter does not require intent. There are different shades of manslaughter (each well defined). When a death is involved, the difference between ‘accident’ and ‘manslaughter’ is usually the addition of some sort of negligence or another associated offense. For example, if I’m sober and driving within the speed limit during a rainstorm and lose control of my car and kill someone, I am not likely to be charged with vehicular manslaughter. However, if it is proved that I was speeding, talking on the phone, or drinking, I am likely in deep do-do.

So the question becomes, how would you tie some of Lori Drews behavior into the equation – also given that she is an adult and the victim is a minor.

In any case, it is nothing to do with the Internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

hmm, if my daughter killed herself, I’d probably seek counseling. I’d initially blame myself since I should be the most important person in her life at that age.

Depending on the outcome of the counseling…I’d either kill myself for causing my daughter’s death or seek vengeance upon the person who caused her death.

While I can’t say for sure, but my initial vengeance would probably be through legal means…but if that didn’t work, I’d move to extra-legal means…

But that’s just my visceral reaction as a parent.

If I were Lori Drew, I’d sleep with one eye open…

SRS2000 says:

Re: Re: Re:

Where do the parents belong?

The girl was on depression medication and I’m fairly sure had been attending counseling although I can’t say that for sure.

So where do they belong… More then likely in counseling.

If they had murdered Lori Drew… In court. But they would likely had never served a day. A jury would be extremely sympathetic and the defense could make a great case for temporary insanity.

and about a different question… Google about the case… depression medication.. best friend.. vacations.. something along those lines. The 2 daughters were best friends. The girl was depressed and fragile and on medication. She went on family vacations with lori drew and her family. You won’t find video footage of her being told about her state.. But what is 100% provable? That is where “Beyond a reasonable doubt” comes in.

Andy says:

Re: Re: Re:2 to Annonymous Coward

U want evidence – here it is:

http://suburbanjournals.stltoday.com/articles/2007/11/11/news/sj2tn20071110-1111stc_pokin_1.ii1.txt
“She was heavy and for years had tried to lose weight. She had attention deficit disorder and battled depression. Back in third grade she had talked about suicide, Tina says, and ever since had seen a therapist.”

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/01/21/080121fa_fact_collins
“Megan had accompanied the Drews on several vacations, and they knew that she was taking medication.”

– get a clue! The other poster is right, The fact that “Drews knew” is beyond reasonable doubt. (You may still continue to doubt however – because you may well be unreasonable)

This should’ve been a case of clear harassment of a minor with malicious intent resulting in manslaughter. Anyone participating should’ve been charged as instigator or accomplices. Prosecutors were clearly idiots – this crime had nothing to do with computers or phones or whatever other medium of communication.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 to Annonymous Coward

“She was heavy and for years had tried to lose weight. She had attention deficit disorder and battled depression. Back in third grade she had talked about suicide, Tina says, and ever since had seen a therapist.”

Tina was Megan’s mother. If you’re claiming that since Megan’s mother knew that proves LD knew, then I’d say that’s untrue.

“Megan had accompanied the Drews on several vacations, and they knew that she was taking medication.”

An unverified claim that doesn’t even say what kind of medication. Antibiotics? Again, a claim that this proves LD knew seems to be untrue.

You may still continue to doubt however – because you may well be unreasonable

I think it is reasonable to require evidence for such a claim as was made. However, the more I see of LD haters misrepresenting evidence and telling other lies, the more convinced I become that LD was railroaded and scapegoated. Thanks for providing that evidence.

SRS2000 says:

Re: Re: Re:

The system is broken.
The poor get railroaded. The rich basically are able to buy a NG verdict. Executives can rape the country and be patted on the back. Oil companies can be behind the murder of multiple people in other countries, have it proven, and only have to pay MONEY.

People don’t have to break a law to be punished. Many people are falsely accused and sent to prison. You can also be punished by corporations, even if you are the victim. Try suing over the death of a family member. Going against corporations is damn near impossible. On the other hand… You can get sued by a corporation and have everything in your life basically taken away. Lose everything you have worked your life for. Try having little money and defending yourself against a team of high priced lawyers.

Mike says:

Right before she hung herself, she was berated by her classmates who heard what an ass she was, her mother who was mad she was logged on and ignored the child being upset at her classmates and Lori Drew who barely did anything. What if “Josh” was not fabricated and he was real? She was troubled, so many teens are. Lets focus on helping teens and not locking people up for nothing, this was b.s. from the get go, congress in no way passed this law for this. The appeals court would have squashed it anyway.

Lucretious (profile) says:

sad for the child but happy this got overturned.

This was an incredibly emotional case and those involved at the state level should have taken special care to assign those with cooler heads to watch over it. If I were Lori Drews parents I’d no doubt want to see the women burned alive but that’s why we don’t allow those directly affected by such things to preside over the decisions or sentencing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Might as well prosecute her mother as well...

According to the police report Megan had an argument with her mother before committing suicide. Seems to me if Lori Drew is responsible so is her mother. Just check for yourself… http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/1120072megan5.html

It seems convenient that everyone seems to leave out this very relevant piece of information.

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