Thursday, November 20, 2008

MySpace Suicide Trial Begins

On Wednesday, the trial of Lori Drew, the adult who allegedly perpetrated the MySpace hoax that resulted in the eventual suicide of Megan Meier, began. Drew was indicted in May on one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization. The charges each carry a maximum of 5 years in prison.

The computer-related charges are based on MySpace's terms of service, which includes not promoting information users know to be false or misleading, or soliciting personal information from anyone under the age of 18 or using information gathered from the Web site to "harass, abuse or harm other people."

The hoax allegedly had been dreamed up by Drew and her daughter Sarah, then 13, and Drew's then 18-year-old assistant, Ashley Grills, to find out what Megan saying about Sarah, as Drew felt Megan has been dissing Sarah.

Meier committed suicide in 2006 after a fictitious boy, Josh Evans, broke up with her on MySpace.

At the time there were no cyberbullying laws in Missouri, but that has since been changed.

However, on Thursday, Ashley Grills testified. She has been given immunity in the case. According to reports, it was her idea, not Drew's, to create the fictional "Josh Evans."
"I made him out to be, I guess, a skater-kid with a bad attitude. She described Evans on his profile as home-schooled, "so nobody could dig up any information on him or go to the school where he was supposedly from." She obtained a photo of a boy from a Google search.

When Lori and Sarah Drew returned, "Lori commented that the kid was pretty good-looking, and that I basically did a good job," said Grill. The Drews then watched as Grill sent the friend request to Megan.
This could severely undermine the prosecution's case, and makes one wonder if they vetted this witness properly, particularly since she has immunity.

Still more damaging to the government's case: the first hurtful things said to Megan, when the scheme began to unravel, came when another girl discovered the password to the Evans account. The trio then decided on an "exit strategy."
"We decided to be mean to her so she would leave him alone … and we could get rid of the page," she said.

The three of them worked on the final exchanges of messages together. "We were reading things out loud… and everyone would formulate the best thing to say," she said. But it was Grill's fingers that typed out the last message to Megan: "The world would be a better place without you."

Grill testified that Megan responded: "You are the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over" -- a brutal revelation that had a visible impact on some jurors when it surfaced for the first time in the government's opening statement Wednesday.
While that last bit of testimony certainly has to hurt Drew, the statements by Grills that she had in fact come up with the idea, and also did the typing, can only help her. It may well be that the only person to pay for this crime --- is Megan herself.

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