Friday, November 30, 2007

Update on Megan Meier

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted this.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran a wonderfully written op-ed on helicopter parenting as it ties into the Megan Meier story.

Amidst mounting pressure, the district attorney in sleepy Dardenne Parish, Jack Banas, has taken a fresh look at the case, and is expected to announce next week whether or not charges will be filed against Lori Drew, her part-time employee, etc.

I suspect no charges will be filed. It's sad, but there you have it. MySpace's sloppy data collection and the battle of she said/she said destroys any solid foundation for a criminal case.

Local officials recently criminalized cyberbullying in Dardenne Parish, but the question is - what is the appropriate response to this horrific story?

An undergrad at Harvard wrote a well-argued rebuttal of the recent law passage for her school paper, and it creates quite a bit of food for thought.

I think she's right - the law passed by local alderman creates a nasty slippery-slope. There's no real legal brightline for investigating or even prosecuting those who break the new statute. Moreover, it's not as if the Drews can be charged retroactively with this knee-jerk, vague reaction of a law.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, "Cyber-bullying has become an increasingly creepy reality, where the anonymity of video games, message boards and other online forums offers an outlet for cruel taunts. But it can be difficult to draw the line between constitutionally protected free speech and conduct that is illegal."

What should have happened? And what should happen now?

1) The D.A.'s office should have subpoenaed MySpace (aka Rupert Murdoch's behemoth group) for any stored data from the Josh Evans account. Obviously, the FBI's investigation into this would have given any request from the D.A. credence.

2) Lori Drew should be shunned. However, there is a difference between legal, civil action and vigilantism, and I think too many bloggers are advocating in favor of pranking this family to death. Resorting to similar methods of harrassment doesn't succeed in giving Drew a taste of her own medicine so much as it reduces those seeking vengeance for Megan Meier to the level of Lori Drew - by all accounts a distasteful shrew who sought to be more of a friend to her daughter than a parent.

3) The other issue at hand is that no one other than the group of people with access to the Josh Evans account know who sent which messages to Megan. For example, can we safely assume that Lori or her daughter sent that final, fateful message to Megan on the afternoon of her suicide? No, of course not. That said, Drew was the ringleader - but there seems to be plenty of blame to go around. Other parents and peers of Megan's were involved.

Just some perspective, folks. This woman is immature and contributed to the death of a fragile young woman. But we should be mindful that we don't follow her down the same path.

1 comment:

Danny Vice said...

On Wednesday, October 21st, city officials wasted no time enacting an ordinance designed to address the public outcry for justice in the Megan Meier tragedy. The six member Board of Aldermen made Internet harassment a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.

Does this new law provide any justice for Megan? Does this law provide equitable relief for a future victim?

The Vice rejects the premise of this new law and believes it completely misses the mark. Classifying this case as a harassment issue completely fails to address the most serious aspects of the methods Lori Drew employed to lead this youth to her demise. The Vice disagrees that harassment was even a factor in this case until just a couple of days before Megan's death.

Considering this case a harassment issue is incorrect because during the 5 weeks Lori Drew baited and groomed her victim, the attention was NOT unwanted attention. Megan participated in the conversations willingly because she was misled, lured, manipulated and exploited without her knowledge.

This law willfully sets a precedent that future child exploiters and predators might use to reclassify their cases as harassment cases. In effect, the law enacted to give Megan justice, may make her even more vulnerable. So long as the child victim doesn't tell the predator to stop, even a harassment charge may not stick with the right circumstances and a good defender.

Every aspect of this case follows the same procedural requirement used to convict a Child Predator. A child was manipulated by an adult. A child was engaged in sexually explicit conversation (as acknowledged by Lori Drew herself). An adult imposed her will on a child by misleading her, using a profile designed to sexually or intimately attract the 13 year old Megan.

Lori then utilized the power she had gained over this child to cause significant distress and endangerment to that child. She even stipulated to many of these activities in the police report she filed shortly after Megan's death.

City officials who continue to ignore this viable, documented admission and continue to address this issue as harassment are intentionally burying their heads in the sand, when the solution is staring them right in the face. Why?

There are several other child exploitation laws on the books. To date, none of them have even been considered by City, State and Federal officials in this case. The Vice is outraged that a motion was never even filed, so that the case could at least be argued before a judge or jury.

Danny Vice