Jurors in a cyber-hoax trial will hear evidence a Missouri woman’s messages on MySpace provoked the suicide of a 13-year-old neighbor, a judge in Los Angeles ruled Friday.
U.S. District Judge George H. Wu denied a defense motion to exclude evidence that Megan Meier reacted to Lori Drew’s messages in October 2006 by hanging herself.
Megan thought she was communicating with a cute 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans, who liked her but then suggested the world would be better off without her.
Wu had said he was leaning the other way because Drew is essentially charged with a form of hacking, not with causing suicide – although prosecutors say they need the suicide evidence to demonstrate intentional infliction of emotional distress.
But on Friday, Wu noted the case was just made the subject of an episode of Law & Order: SVU.
“It’s impossible to get a jury that doesn’t know,” said Wu, who instead suggested attorneys focus on finding jurors not unduly influenced by what they might already know about the case.
Defense: Evidence Inflammatory
Defense attorney H. Dean Steward said that will be impossible.
“They will see a series of computer messages ending in the death of a young girl and they’re going to look to convict my client, me, and anyone sitting next to me,” Steward argued to Wu. “What will come from this is not a morally reasonable verdict, but a morally outraged verdict.”
Jury selection is scheduled to start Tuesday.
Drew, who lives in a St. Louis suburb, could get up to 20 years in prison if convicted of one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization. Jurors will be offered the option of convicting on a misdemeanor, the court also decided Friday.