Trial Begins in Fatal Cyber-Bullying Case
A mother tearfully recalls for jury e-mails that allegedly provoked daughter's suicide
Trial started Wednesday in a cyber-bullying trial with a federal prosecutor asking a Los Angeles jury to find that a Missouri woman “hatched a plot to prey on the psyche of a 13-year-old girl” that ended in suicide.
U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien said Lori Drew posed as a 16-year-old boy in 2006 to flirt with her young neighbor Megan Meier – knowing Megan was both boy-crazy and depressed – then ended the online exchange by writing: “The world would be a better place without you.”
Megan wrote back, “You are the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over,” O’Brien told the jury. “Thirty minutes later, Megan Meier was dead.”
Her mother, Tina Meier, avoided looking at Drew as she testified about her frail daughter’s bouts with depression and anxiety over her appearance.
Cries at Recollection
Meier cried as she recalled how the MySpace exchange ended with a flurry of hateful messages from the imaginary Josh Evans and two girls.
Shortly afterward, Meier recalled, she had a sense something was wrong and ran to Megan’s room.
“I opened the door and found her hanging in the closet,” she testified as she wept.
Defense attorney H. Dean Steward said Drew knew very little about MySpace and computers. He said the evidence suggests Drew’s teenage employee and other young girls wrote the e-mails that allegedly set Megan over the edge while Drew wasn’t even home.
Call for Mistrial
After Meier’s testimony, Steward renewed his motion for a mistrial, saying such heart-wrenching testimony was inappropriate in case of alleged cyber-fraud – authorities are not alleging murder or manslaughter – and the jury shouldn’t be hearing about the suicide at all.
Judge George H. Wu rejected the motion. Last week, Wu noted the case was just made the subject of an episode of Law & Order: SVU. Rather than try to find jurors who never heard about the case, he suggested attorneys find jurors not unduly influenced by what they might already know.
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 could also convict her of a misdemeanor.