The case of Lori Drew and her role in the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier was a controversial one. Meier was a teenager who suffered from bouts of depression, but was generally characterized and good-natured and outgoing. When she committed suicide after an argument with her mother, it seemed like nothing more than a tragic case of teenage mental illness gone awry.
However, then it came out that the argument with her mother was over cruel comments from a boy online who allegedly initially romanced her on MySpace and then turned hostile, eventually dropping a hint that the world might be a better place if she left it. The only thing out of the ordinary -- the teenage boy, wasn't really a teenage boy; it was neighbor Lori Drew who wanted to allegedly "get Meier back" for supposed mean behavior towards her daughter.
When this came to light, federal authorities sidestepped local authorities, which would likely have delivered no charges. They charged Ms. Drew with a variety of misdemeanors as well as four felony counts.
The trial was long and heated, with Ms. Drew's attorney arguing that Meier's suicide was less the result of MySpace, and more the result of a history of mental illness and that Ms. Drew could not be held responsible for not reading MySpace’s EULA, because "no one" does. Meanwhile, prosecutors painted Ms. Drew as a mean-spirited woman who tormented young Meier and drove her to her unfortunate end.
In the end the jury found Ms. Drew guilty of three misdemeanor charges, while clearing her of three of the felony charges and reaching a deadlock in a fourth felony charge. The result is that Ms. Drew will be sentenced to anything from probation to three years behind bars, avoiding felony sentencing which could have put her in prison for 20 years.
The reason the jury found her not guilty on the felony counts was due to lack of proof that Ms. Drew had typed the MySpace messages that drove Meier apparently to suicide. The messages may also have been typed by Ms. Drew's employee or daughter, both of which were privy to Ms. Drew's scheme.
Tina Meier, Megan's mother says that despite the mixed nature of the verdict, that it's a victory. She states, "This is about justice. It's justice not only for Megan but it's justice for everybody who has had to go through this with the computer and being harassed."
MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam also praised the decision, stating, "MySpace respects the jury's decision and will continue to work with industry experts to raise awareness of cyber-bullying and the harm it can potentially cause."
The greatest impact of the case may be to spur government officials to enact new cyberbullying laws, which could allow criminal charges for those who goad youth into suicide. Meier's case is not alone in this respect -- recently a teenager was encouraged by hundreds of onlookers in a video chat room to take pills and kill himself, which he did, dying hours later as the cameras rolled.