Myspace Murder?

ABC News writes today about the case that, two years ago, a girl committed suicide.  Prosecutors are now charging a neighbor with conspiracy and accessing protected computers without authorization.  She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years.  But the girl’s mother says that this is not enough.

With emotions flying high, and many people obviously feeling the neighbor should face murder charges, I have a few question.

If someone commits suicide, can it ever be murder?  Under what circumstances can one man’s suicide be murder by someone else?  What is the principle by which courts can determine suicide from murder?  Am I my brother’s keeper?

Our culture used to understand that each is responsible for his own actions.  We are moving rapidly towards a dictatorship justified by appealing to the new desire for a nanny.  Most people want to be cared for, and they are willing to trade their liberty for this illusion of security.

I think this case is just the latest in a long series of incidents to push us that much closer to Hitler’s crade-to-grave security.  Even in the case of an unstable teenager who commits suicide, we can find someone else to blame.

This is a girl who, according to her mother, has been depressed since third grade, who has cut her arms repeatedly, and talked seriously about suicide.  She hung herself after a boy said he didn’t like her any more.

The catch is that it wasn’t really a boy.  It was an Internet chat, and the “boy” was a 49 year woman who lived nearby.

The girl’s mother provides a money quote:

“It’s pathetic,” Meier told ABC News at the time. “It’s pathetic that we as a society do not have laws to protect our children or to protect us in general…”

Uh, Mrs. Meyer?  What about laws to protect our children from horrible mothers that drive them to depression and suicide?  Would you be free to walk about, or would you be in prison, if we “as a society” enacted laws to “protect our children in general”??

Don’t get me wrong.  This is a horrible situation.  It is a tragedy.  The neighbor is a bad person.  The mother looks like a bad person too.  But I don’t think all bad people should be sent to jail.*

Their main punishment is they have to live with themselves.


*For the record, I do think that fraud on the Internet, including lying about your identity, should be punished.  But I don’t think it should be punished selectively for high-profile human-interest cases like this, and ignored hundreds of millions of times per day otherwise.


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