Judge reluctant to dismiss MySpace suicide case

by Walter Olson on September 8, 2008

“The use of the anti-hacking law to charge [Lori] Drew [in a notorious case of identity-hoax cruelty whose target committed suicide] was criticized by experts who said it set a dangerous precedent that could potentially make a felon out of anyone who violated the terms of service of any website — a prospect that is particularly troubling, they said, because terms-of-service agreements sometimes contain onerous provisions, are often arbitrarily and unilaterally changed by companies, and are rarely read by users.” (Kim Zetter, Wired News, Sept. 5). Earlier: May 16.

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September 29 roundup
09.29.08 at 9:08 am

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1 john 09.08.08 at 9:21 pm

I’m not sure why she isn’t being sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress, or whatever the actual wording should be? Is that just a TV thing?

2 AZFlyer 09.08.08 at 9:45 pm

This is obviously a case of a prosecutor trying to stretch the law to get a popular conviction. It’s one of those cases where someone did something that most consider wrong, yet the state of Missouri (correctly) did not prosecute because there was no law aimed specifically at the act in question.

Setting a precedent that violating a website’s TOS is equivalent to violating federal hacking laws seems absurd, yet the argument might succeed, just because so many are adamant on punishing this woman for something.

I’ve twice served on juries where jurors wanted to “convict this guy of something”, because they did not like what a defendant had done. In both cases, the defendant had not actually broken the law that he was being tried for, and in both cases I refused to go along with such a travesty. “Vengance” law is a bad thing when practiced by juries. I find it even more disturbing when it is practiced by prosecutors (who should know better).

3 Bill Poser 09.08.08 at 11:52 pm

Agreed. What is odd here is that the judge is reluctant to dismiss the case. One of the reasons we have judges is to dismiss such cases before a jury can get its hands on them.

4 tcaptain 09.09.08 at 1:39 pm

Isn’t there some sort of law against this sort of emotional manipulation…or to that extreme I mean?

Wouldn’t this fall under some sort of criminal negligence statute?

I agree that trying to stretch existing law is stupid. I simply don’t know law all that well and I’m curious about this.

What she did IS very reprehensible, and if it breaks no law, than she SHOULD walk free…as much as it galls me.

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