April 15, 2010

Am I bullying the bullied dead girl...

... in the New York Times?

No, I am criticizing the prosecutor bully.

ADDED: What if, after the prosecutor charged the kids with crimes for bullying, one of those kids got so upset he committed suicide?

60 comments:

Pogo said...

Althouse; "I think it's terrible to use criminal law to achieve social goals like this."

Well-stated.

Some bullying does become a Lord of the Flies microcosm of exceptional cruelty. But criminalizing it is the wrong approach.

While bullies, like the poor, you always have with you, our society is experiencing an increasingly barbaric youth, more violent and aggressive and cruel than one and two and three generations ago (e.g. the recent Philadelphia flash mob riots, Columbine, etc.).

The question is why?

Making this a crime misses the point entirely, and kicks the can down the road again.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

(note- I can't watch the video and am just going off AA's post.)

This is the sort of attitude that I was writing about last week. It should be about what is right or wrong, not about who has the most sympathetic side. Just because a girl had a really sympathectic story, like the girl here, doesn't mean that everything and anything allegedly done on her behalf is right and good.

- Lyssa

Big Mike said...

Okay, I need a law professor, or maybe even a former law student, to explain this to me. My understanding is that if I punch someone who richly deserves a fist in the face, but he has a congenital weakness and the result of the punch is that the person I've attacked dies, then under the law I've committed homicide. Not manslaughter, homicide. Doesn't matter that 999 times out of a thousand the person would merely lie on the ground with a sore jaw, doesn't matter if I didn't know about his weakness, it's homicide.

First of all, am I correct so far? Because this is what my senseis drilled into me during all my martial arts training.*

Now here's where things begin to break down. To my way of thinking, if the bullying would normally cause tears and mental anguish for a high school girl, but 999 times out of a thousand would not drive her to suicide, then why should not the bullies be just as guilty of homicide? No, they didn't mean for her to die, and, no, they couldn't have known she was that psychologically weak, and 999 times out of a thousand the girl wouldn't have died as a result of their activities. But if one attacks a person and as a direct consequence of the attack that person dies -- this is the one time out of a thousand -- then I assert that one should be prepared to pay the price.

"Don't do the crime if you can't do the time."
_______________
* Good reason for taking up Aikido, which is a purely defensive martial art. If you kill somebody one can get a whole bunch of 4th and 5th and higher-degree black belt Aikidokans to testify that you could not have applied your technique in an offensive manner.

Tom said...

Good for you, Ann. Bullies are people, too, with their own set of problems, and they can't, shouldn't be held responsible for their targets' reactions, which are clearly pathological if extreme.

Being on the receiving end of bullying can be a boon-- what doesn't kill you will toughen you up and inure you to life's rough and tumble kind of shit out there. It's darwinian lose-win character remolding that bullies offer us. It can make people do things to others they never thought they'd do.

In school, it's always the resenters and envious who gang up and bully; they're the people who must make somebody look and feel bad to bolster their self-worth. Often they're keen rationalizers for why they do what they do- targets deserve it, ask for it, a matter of revenge, or just because they can get away with it, etc. Bullies can use some truths, distortions or outright lies in their campaigns. They can rotten cherry-pick, take out of context, taunt, threaten, smear, etc. in person (which I personally respect) or anonymously on the net these days (the coward bullies.) They can set themselves up as (hanging) judge and jury in a kangaroo court. Targets often don't get to face their accuser bullies, who, btw, often do that outgoing clique thing because they're well-adjusted.

It's good we constitutionally protect bully speech and behavior.

Ann Althouse said...

"First of all, am I correct so far?"

No. You have stated the core difference between tort law and criminal law.

bagoh20 said...

It might be boring to the legalians here, but I wish Ann and commentariat would discuss more often the common legal concepts that the public may misunderstand.

Is there a blog where that is done?

Tom said...

It is a matter of criminal law when bullies electronically monitor, eavesdrop and stalk their target. Patterns of harassment and implicit threats of violence and blackmail are often documented, as well, and go can criminal and tort, from what I've been told.

Still, even with irrefutable evidence in hand and a slamdunk case, it's a pain for victims to go legal-- why do vicious lawbreakers intent on ruining somebody's life deserve the consideration?

Thank you for standing up for the constitutional rights of all people, Ann

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Big Mike,
Homicide is a general term that just means the killing of a person. All manslaugter is homicide, but not all homicide is manslaughter. What I think you are talking about is the difference between manslaughter and murder, in which case, you would be incorrect. Murder requires premeditation and intent, so, in your hypothetical, you could, possibly, be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, but certainly not murder (assuming the jury bought your story, of course).

Even if, however, we apply that rule and allow a person to be charged with murder or manslaughter for causing the death of another, we've got a lot of huge policy problems. In your hypothetical, the cause (the punch) and the effect (death) is clearly connected. But in the bullying case, there is an intervening cause, the girl actually acting to take her own life. She acted on her own to do this, despite her reasons.

In your hypo, you said even if this was the completely odd case that one wouldn't have expected it to result in suicide, the person could still be liable. Think of how wide that application could be. If Elin Woods committed suicide because her marriage went bad, could Tiger be liable? If a teen gets caught sneaking out, gets grounded, and commits suicide, could the parents be liable?

I'm all for charging the kids for actual crimes that they may have committed (i.e., assault, statutory rape), but charging them for her death would be a big problem.
- Lyssa (a former law student, although not THE former law student)

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"What if, after the prosecutor charged the kids with crimes for bullying, one of those kids got so upset he committed suicide?"

Then justice would have been well-served.

As it is, these fucking punk kids will get off lightly.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"... in the New York Times?"

By the way ... Mrs. Bighead ... you're not "in the New York Times."

A video you are in was copied onto their website so that they don't have to pay someone to produce content.

That's no more "in the New York Times" than me commenting on their website.

Jesus, you're fucking getting a massively inflated ego that is not in any way justified by the content you are producing.

traditionalguy said...

The Prosecutor now has the evidence against you in his hand. Bullying this dead girl that was driven to suicide is like desecration of her dead body.In fact everybody that watched the Talking Heads is now an accomplice after the fact. Think of yourself as a Duke LaCrosse player.

k*thy said...

Lyssa, thanks for the explanation. That makes sense. And I agree final paragraph.

Lem said...

I would make the bullies do community service at schools for kids with autism and down syndrome, twice a week for 10 to 12 weeks.

buster said...

@ Big Mike:

I disagree with Althouse and agree with you, but your argument is confused.

The distinction you're trying to draw is not between manslaughter and homicide, but rather between manslaughter and murder. "Homicide" derives from the Latin for "man-killing," and both manslaughter and murder are forms of unlawful homicide. The difference between them has to do with the mental state of the killer. A murderer acts with the intention of killing, and a person committing manslaughter acts recklessly or with negligence. (Like everything legal, it's more complicated than this, but in essence the above is true.) So what you should have argued is that the Aikido guy would be guilty of manslaughter.

Whether the bullies are guilty of manslaughter (negligent homicide) is a close one, because the idea of negligence is taken more seriously in criminal law than in tort law. I'm not a criminal lawyer, but I would guess that an indictment for manslaughter on the facts stated in the newspaper stories would not be dismissed by the court, and the case could get to the jury. What the jury would do is anyone's guess.

Traditional guy, who I understand does criminal law, would probably have a more informed opinion.

buster said...

@ Lyssa:

I posted before I read your excellent post which makes my point better than I did. I agree with your policy point, but I don't think the foreseeability problem looms very large in the case of the bullies. The causal relation between their conduct and the girl's suicide is pretty straightforward. Juries decide such questions routinely.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Thanks, buster. I'm more worried about the precedent. Allow this one, and then push harder on the next one, and so on. Over-zealous prosecutors and all that.

You know, before Mike Nifong, I probably would have just said let discretion take over, but after that, I'm pretty hesitant to open any doors at all.

- Lyssa

Shanna said...

Think of how wide that application could be. If Elin Woods committed suicide because her marriage went bad, could Tiger be liable? If a teen gets caught sneaking out, gets grounded, and commits suicide, could the parents be liable?

Or, as so often happens, if someone breaks it off with their significant other, and then they kill themselves, should they be held liable? I actually wonder if one of the guys dumped her, and that contributed to her death as much as the bullying.

buster said...

@ Lyssa:

I agree. Althouse's concern with prosecutorial discretion is valid, but I don't think that *in this case* a manslaughter charge would be an abuse. Of course the bullies are adolescents who had no idea that what they were doing could result in death. But many people convicted of manslaughter could say the same. Suppose a father left a loaded gun on the living-room sofa and his three-year old shot himself to death.

Ann Althouse said...

@Tom Would you mind talking about the actual case and the charges in it? This isn't a matter of stalking. It's teens being really mean to their schoolmates and now being charged with felonies.

Tom said...

Oh, sorry, Ann. Didn't realize tangential situations weren't ever welcome in the threads here.

It's just that I know someone who has been stalked and harassed by adults seeking to "ruin him and his child's life" who hide behind the constitutionally protected speech defense, (although in this case criminal activity has been established beyond any doubt.) What I thought relevant here was that they've intimated were he were to kill himself, that they would experience no moral or legal reprisal. I see a similarity in this case with the other, but maybe you don't. Teenagers are old enough.

The law's inadequate to the situation, especially given the medium of the ubiquitous and largely anonymous internet. The law in the case of this unfortunate girl being psychically assaulted in the school halls (and maybe internet) is inadequate, as well. The law doesn't satisfy, so be it. And life goes on, or not.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Shanna said: "I actually wonder if one of the guys dumped her, and that contributed to her death as much as the bullying."

I was wondering the same thing. I remember knowing several girls in high school who fell head over heels with a guy (who they were having sex with), particular an older guy, and just let him walk all over them; did *anything* he wanted sexually, let him run around on her, ignored all the signs that she was obviously just a piece of tail to him, etc. They were generally emotional basket cases.

There's some indication here that she may have been getting "passed around" by the guys (I hate even typing that). I wonder if it was a similar situation, made worse by being a laughing stock? Certainly, lesser things have driven teens to suicide.

- Lyssa

former law student said...

Murder requires premeditation and intent

To my understanding premeditation is only an element of one type of first degree murder.

Voluntary manslaughter requires intent; malice marks the distinction between manslaughter and murder. Malice in Californian is defined by statute. There are two types of malice: express and implied. Express malice exists "when there is manifested a deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a fellow creature." Malice may be implied by a judge or jury "when no considerable provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart."

In California the DA could charge the teens with second-degree murder. S/he would have to make the case that the teens' behavior amounted to recklessness so great that their malice could be inferred.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

@Tom Would you mind talking about the actual case and the charges in it? This isn't a matter of stalking. It's teens being really mean to their schoolmates and now being charged with felonies.

Correct me, it's been about a week since I saw the charges in an article and I thought I saw stalking as one of the charges filed. Tried to find a list, but only got an incomplete one (what else to expect from the Globe?).

I thought when I saw them that the prosecutor was reaching on most of the charges, particularly stalking. Maybe it's me, but I smell another DA trying to pull a Nifong here and get a national rep for "bringing the murderers to justice". I don't think most of the charges will stick.

I would also disagree with Pogo that kids are that much crueler today. The Philly incident was a mirror image of one that happened about 30 years ago, it was just organized a little better because of wireless technology. The same can be said, to a lesser degree, about Columbine and the Internet, where people can find kindred souls no matter how dark the interest.

PS Your question about one of the defendants committing suicide would be answered by, "She was just enforcing the law", but it's an interesting point, especially if the charges were eventually thrown out.

Joe said...

My concern is that prosecutions like this all too often turn into witch hunts were bit players and even the innocent get rounded up by a zealous prosecutor on a crusade.

This isn't merely hypothetical; we've seen this happen many times in the last decades.

One thing that's disturbing to me is the assumption by many that the cause and effect is clearly known here. How do we know that her suicide wasn't over a specific event, such as rejection by a boy she had a crush on? What if it was over a different matter all together?

Titus said...

I have mixed emotions about this case.

I was bullied beyond belief in high school. Beat up, had to get a psychiatrists excuse in order to get out of phy ed and then had to make up my phy ed requirement by attending with the mentally challenged kids-while the boys were on the next field.

My parents and I had to actually meet with all of my teachers because they had to explain to my parents that my "femininity" was offensive and distracting to other students-no serious this really happened.

On Saturday nights when my parents went bowling I was alone in my house and the kids would come to my house and bang on all the windows and try and open the doors and the next morning fag and dick sucker was written on soap on all the windows and my dad would have to clean it up.

Kids dumped cow shit on my car in the school parking lot, etc.

Yea, I know wo is me.

But the shit totally made me stronger and I also had an outlet called drum corps where I hung out with people outside of school and fit in. I don't know what I would of done if I did not have the outside contact.

Didn't a couple of these boys rape her as well?

exhelodrvr1 said...

How do you prosecute someone for a "psychological" crime? I think that is too slippery a slope to step on to.

Titus said...

I always say if I can deal with what high school threw my way I can deal with anything in life which I pretty much have.

I am actually grateful about my high school experience now.

I don't think I would of been able to be as successful and achieved as much as I have without my high school experience.

One other thing high school taught me is to get some muscles. I was 5-10 and weighed 110 in high school. The first thing out of high school I did was join a gym and get bigger-it really helped.

Titus said...

What is the definition of statutory rape?

Oligonicella said...

Big Mike --

"Good reason for taking up Aikido, which is a purely defensive martial art."

Don't rely on that. There are number of techniques that are without doubt offensive, but with a **wink, wink** veneer of defense. It's a good art, though.

wv: yodinau - The technique of brushing a punch past the face, palm heeling the opponent's chin to spin their head, causing the spine to twist so you can put your left forearm against it providing a shear to pull the head back over (by the eyesockets) to offset their center of gravity to the point of no recovery for the purpose of releasing both hands simultaneously and dropping them backwards onto the back of their skull.

Trooper York said...

"What is the definition of statutory rape?"

When you get your dick caught in one of the lions in front of the Library at Bryant Park. True story.

Cedarford said...

Tom - "Being on the receiving end of bullying can be a boon-- what doesn't kill you will toughen you up and inure you to life's rough and tumble kind of shit out there. It's darwinian lose-win character remolding that bullies offer us. It can make people do things to others they never thought they'd do."

Yes, bullying can lead to wondrous reactions:

1. It can drive a bullied person to seek a gang wherein they can have safety in numbers - which they wouldn't have joined otherwise. And then embark on a life of crime. In investigating some of the new, violent gangs, officials have traced their origin back to Asian, Latin, and Haitian immigrants whose founders were bullied by native blacks, sometimes in Jr chapters of violent domestic gangs. Haitian in Miami - "80 Street saved me from the bullies. 80 Street crew set me up drug dealing. No one beat me anymore and I had money. I had two guns, one hidden inside school in case the Americans who beat us who were in their own gang, wished to rumble. Even though I have been in jail 3 times, 80 Street was the best thing that ever happened to me at school. I give thanks to God I was allowed to join and live free of fear."

2. Law enforcement ties half of school violence to have been precipitated by bullying. Including shootings. Shootings, like bullying, build character in young people. Like stabbings and blugeonings, they prepare kids better for the world as it is, I guess. And when a suicidal student shoots teachers and bystanders as well as the bully, it helps survivors and wounded better understand what war is like, in a direct academic context.

former law student said...

When you get your dick caught in one of the lions in front of the Library

Wouldn't that be Bronztiality?

former law student said...

Did the professor compare this story to the Midwest girl who killed herself after her adult neighbor broke her heart over the Internet?

The authorities couldn't find a charge that would stick as I recall.

Freder Frederson said...

It's teens being really mean to their schoolmates and now being charged with felonies.

So Ann, Ms. Law Professor, could you please explain what specific acts the prosecutor charged against these girls that would not be felonies if they were adults?

And while the statutory rape laws in Mass may not be to your liking, apparently it is what it is.

Big Mike said...

I disagree with Althouse and agree with you, but your argument is confused.

Well, that's not a surprise.

I'd like to thank Professor Althouse, lyssa, FLS and buster for their efforts to clarify the situation for a layman like me.

FWIW, the distinction I was drawing w.r.t. martial arts was between karate versus the defense-oriented Aikido. Karate involves the application of violence -- one dominates one's opponent by defeating his attack and applying one's own speed and strength. Aikido(at least the version I was taught, Oligonicella) can only use the energy that the attacker applies, so to a good first approximation if I were to take someone's life using an Aikido technique then that person was attempting to take mine.

halojones-fan said...

Ann, the issue here is that the language you use casts you as not only in favor of "they're innocent" but makes it look like you don't think they did anything wrong AT ALL.

Is that the case? Are you really taking the attitude that words are not and cannot be meaningful? If so, then what's up with all these posts where you complain when people say bad things about you? If nobody should care what other people say, then why do you care about what other people say?

"It's not about that, it's just about the case." Well, yes, but there it is; it is "about that". You're talking as though the prosecutor just woke up one day and say "hey, I know, I'm gonna fuck up a bunch of kids' lives, what trumped-up bullshit can I use to do that?" That's not the case. What's happening is that there are several bad actors who need to be dealt with, and this is the best means the legal system can provide for doing so.

People are comparing this to the Duke/Nifong case, which is stupid, because that was a case where the prosecutor manipulated evidence to create a crime were nothing had happened.

halojones-fan said...

Big Mike: What you learned is "how to hit people really hard". Any prosecutor worth his salt would make absolute hash out of a defense that "my training is in defensive arts, not offensive attacks." That's like saying that I didn't shoot him, yerroner, he just got in the way of my bullets.

Cedarford said...

Althouse - "What if, after the prosecutor charged the kids with crimes for bullying, one of those kids got so upset he committed suicide?"

If it was the ringleader of the bullies, it would be karmic justice, and we can only hope! I believe the dismayed "lead" bully's parents have reported that several messages have been delivered to their daughter suggesting suicide as atonement for her actions and as a way to avoid the stigma for the rest of her life as a murderer....

=======================
"Titus - Titus said...
I always say if I can deal with what high school threw my way I can deal with anything in life which I pretty much have.."

Titus, your bullying may have made you stronger..but there was still a risk it could have wrecked you. Or led you to off yourself, or march into school with a gun and take out your enemies if it had gotten truly intolerable, and others stood back and didn't intervene.
When it is gang bullying, the fantasy of the after-school challenge mano-a-mano and resolving things by bravely sticking up for yourself doesn't work....
And certain cases, fighting back only leads to to more bullying. I believe I remember the story of a small town in Texas basically deciding informally that since the law could not stop an out of control town bully, that he should be ambushed and shot to death. And was..

In any case, I liken law to what happens when all the power is with the bullies and nothing their victim can do to stop it - and bystanders get disgusted and exact vigilante justice. We all say we deplore vigilante justice, but do we?? Really?

As a teen, I was part of a group that decided to beat the crap out of two bullies who kept terrorizing and attacking a mildly retarded cerebral palsy student mainstreamed into classes. They were two grades below us. They were warned to lay off the retarded one, or else - and they basically laughed. So we beat the shit out of them. Two twerps against 4 of us who were two years older and much bigger. I threw one against a tree truck. They were stomped and kicked. One ended up in the hospital ER (broken ribs). But not before both were warned that if they told their parents what happened, we'd kill them. If they told cops, we'd kill them. They didn't say a word.
The cerebral palsy kid was left alone after word spread.
Morally, the 4 of us friends felt we were on the right side - even if we were older, bigger, and out-numbered the two bullies. And kicked 'em when they were down and begging for us to stop. Because going after a retarded kid really broke a code..

Trooper York said...

"Wouldn't that be Bronztiality?"

Maybe. But it is still something you should put on your resume if you running for governor in New York State. Just sayn'

lyssalovelyredhead said...

FLS is completely right about premeditation and intent. I felt like I was leaving something a little bit out, there (I only took the bare minimum of crim law).

Since no one answered Titus's question about statutory rape, it is what would otherwise be consentual sex, but with someone who the law deems unable to consent, usually based on age. For example, an adult having sex with a teenager. It's still predatory (because the teen is presumed to be too young to make his/her own decisions), but not violent and not usually tramatic, as rape is usually considered to be. The age varies by state, and may states have laws that give a pass if the offender is close in age to the victim. Sometimes the difference in age required is small enough that two high school students can violate it (say, a senior who's 18 and a sophmore who is 15).

Today, I'm writing a memo on the law related to sex offender registries. How odd.

Beth said...

Did the dead girl commit suicide because she was being held accountable for something she'd done, something that she deserved to be called to account for?

We should just stop prosecuting people altogether. Someone might be upset.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

the issue here is that the language you use casts you as not only in favor of "they're innocent" but makes it look like you don't think they did anything wrong AT ALL..

This issue isn't that the students did something wrong. They were bullies and morally in the wrong.

However, do their actions rise to the level that they are prosecuted as being directly and criminally responsible for the suicide of the young girl?

If they can be held criminally liable for hurting someone's feelings at what level do we prosecute bad behaviour. When is it criminal and when is it just bad behavior.

If I tell you your hair looks like crap and you dress like a bag lady and you are emotionally wounded and you decide that you will end it all, am I responsible? Maybe morally because I should have been kinder or just minded my own busines...... but criminally?

The issue is what level of bad, mean, bullying behavior becomes a crime.

Cedarford said...

When society has individuals that seriously violate norms and people are hurt - society collectively expects either law and the state to intervene - or if that is impotent, for the citizens to have societal approval to exact informal justice and retribution.

Lawyers tend to be aghast at this normal response. Saying that only lawyers have a role, and if law and the lawyers for and against the State are impotent - society should just accept that nothing can be done.

In such a situation, we have outsiders and most lawyers say that perhaps a whole town is "wrong" to approve of someone writing "Murderer" on someone's car and front of their house......but if we do not prosecute those that significantly harm others, what do they expect?

halojones-fan said...

"If they can be held criminally liable for hurting someone's feelings at what level do we prosecute bad behaviour.[sic]"

Anti-defamation laws, hate crime laws, discrimination laws, etc. Your theory is invalid.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Anti-defamation laws, hate crime laws, discrimination laws, etc. Your theory is invalid.

Not really. If I don't like you, don't want to hang out with you, refuse to sit with you at lunch, snub you at every chance I get, make faces behind your back. You feel so rejected and sad that you kill yourself. have I committed a crime?

I know: my example is a lot less bad than the things they say the bullys in this case have done. However, the question is at what level do those things constitute a crime.

Because the girl in question killed herself, when many of us have gone through much worse and survived does this mean that the exact same behaviour is criminal in one case and NOT in the other because the outcomes were different?

Serious question.

Shanna said...

Sometimes the difference in age required is small enough that two high school students can violate it (say, a senior who's 18 and a sophmore who is 15).

Yes. It sounds like these people were all in high school together. Although I don’t know Mass’s law on this in particular, I haven’t heard anything that says the sex wasn’t consensual. As far as its affect on her psyche, a non-consensual rape is quite different from a sophomore sleeping with her senior boyfriend. (or from a 50yo raping his 10yo niece, which is the kind of thing these laws were made for, not sexually active high school teenagers) IMO.

The issue is what level of bad, mean, bullying behavior becomes a crime.

Not only that, there is the issue of what level of crime it is. They may very well have committed some lesser crimes, but should they rise to the level of felony?

Shanna said...

Because the girl in question killed herself, when many of us have gone through much worse and survived does this mean that the exact same behaviour is criminal in one case and NOT in the other because the outcomes were different?

THIS. It's either a crime or it isn't. It's either worthy of prosecution or it isn't. I don't think those decision should be made based on people's reaction to the behavior.

Trooper York said...

You know you might want to rethink your position Cedarford because you really hurt my friend Shlomo's feelings. Just sayn'

Smilin' Jack said...

What if, after the prosecutor charged the kids with crimes for bullying, one of those kids got so upset he committed suicide?

That would be what most of us refer to as "cool."

themightypuck said...

Prosecutorial discretion exists for a reason. It is always somewhat unjust that particular defendants are singled out. Problems arise when defendants are singled out for bad reasons like race or political affiliation etc. One would think overreach shouldn't be a problem since a functioning judiciary would throw bad cases out. In practice this doesn't always happen and corruption is always a risk but that's just the nature of politics.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Re: Shanna's comment:

To get obnoxiously legalistic about it, statutory rape sex is *not* consentual, because the victim is not old enough to effectively consent (which is why it is rape.) He or she may say "yes" and want to mean it, but that "yes" doesn't mean anything.

Also, FWIW, the uncle and 10 year old is probably molestation, as well as incest. I think in most cases, the line between stat. rape and molestation is something like 12-13 (post-pubescent). It's more about a predatory adult wooing a younger person who's not mature enough to make good decisions (think the Matthew McConehay (sp?) character from Dazed and Confused) or an adult in a position of power taking advantage (such as a teacher, coach, or friend of the kid's parents).

A lot of states have "Romeo and Juliet" laws that exempt teens who are close in age, such as the 18 year old and the 15 year old, but, at least in my state (TN), they don't necessarily cover all of high school. I'm pretty sure in TN, a freshman and a senior can still be illegal, which makes sense, since freshmen are generally kind of dumb and manipulatable. (I know I was!)

Big Mike said...

@halojones, you don't punch anybody in Aikido. I've seen people thrown by a sensei who were never touched by him at all. One of the most devastating techniques I personally know how to do involves little more than moving my face out of the trajectory of the attacker's fist (a good idea in any case) and then lightly touching him on his back shoulder as he moves past. Depending on how hard a punch he threw, he'll come down 3 to 10 feet away.

Kirk Parker said...

"My understanding is that if I punch someone who richly deserves a fist in the face, but he has a congenital weakness and the result of the punch is that the person I've attacked dies..."

You're right about the detail, and your attempt to relate this to the bullying case might actually work.

However, your senseis did you a major disservice if they actually taught what you report. Yes, the "eggshell skull" rule can change what would ordinarily be simple battery into a charge of murder, but it can't change justifiable self-defense into an offense (or at least not in any American jurisdiction I'm aware of.) Genuine self-defense vs willing participant is what every self-defense endeavor I've ever been connected with has taught, not some (false) notion that "X is only defensive". Nor has anyone ever reinforced the "somebody richly deserves" a beating approach.

wv: "clucki" -- some Italian chick.

Shanna said...

To get obnoxiously legalistic about it, statutory rape sex is *not* consensual, because the victim is not old enough to effectively consent (which is why it is rape.) He or she may say "yes" and want to mean it, but that "yes" doesn't mean anything.

Also, FWIW, the uncle and 10 year old is probably molestation, as well as incest. I think in most cases, the line between stat. rape and molestation is something like 12-13 (post-pubescent).


Well that is a big legalistic but I take your point :) I'm no lawyer. Still, I think everybody has an opinion on the close in age statutory rape cases, particularly one’s where all the parties are still in high school.

The state sticks all these teenagers with raging hormones together all day and then you expect them to not date when they're only a few years apart in age? And sometimes these couples have been together for years and finally have sex and then it's illegal? I'm just kind of icky about these prosecutions.

Cedarford said...

DBQ - "Because the girl in question killed herself, when many of us have gone through much worse and survived does this mean that the exact same behaviour is criminal in one case and NOT in the other because the outcomes were different?

Serious question"

DBQ - There are a lot of actions that are not criminal, not even punishable as a civil ordnance fine - that can still land you in criminal trouble or being sued for a pretty penny if your actions later are seen as reckless or contributory to the harm done.

3 blacks in one city were charged and plead to negligent homicide after threatening an Asian man - who ran. They chased after him, and he was killed by a car trying to get away. Now, if the man had not been killed, but had complained later about being chased by 3 menacing black youth, the cops would say no harm was done, no crime committed. But the guy was dead, the car driver was not at fault, and though the 3 had nothing to do with the actual circumstances of the guy dying in a pedestrian collision - they caused it.
So it is consequences of behavior that often determine if it is criminal or not.
You wave a gun around and it goes off in your house and lodges a round in a wall, no problem. It goes out your window and blows the face off a lady 200 yards away..well now you have a criminal problem.

Bullies throw a clothed kid in the lake with witnesses around and the kid swims out wet and angry, no problem. No charges, no lawsuits.
(Consider what would happen if parents with wet kid go to police station or to lawyer. Consider what would happen if parents carrying dead wet kid out of lake call for the police and their family attorney)

Bullies throw a kid in and the kid drowns because he was weak - bullies now have a criminal investigation with witnesses to the homicide.
Actions and intent are the same - but harm from the different outcomes dictates the jump to state and civil sanctions in the latter scenario.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@Cedarford

All of your examples are of physical threats or physical violence from external forces on the victim.

In the case of the harrassment of this girl (I believe??) and in the case of the internet bullying where the student was harrased by an adult: these are mental stresses and mental harm, not physical.

I would expect that if you physically cause harm by throwing someone into the lake and they die or in the case of the guy running away from the imminent threat of physical harm, there could be criminal and liablility issues.

The question is can there be lethal cases of bullying when the physical harm comes from the person the who killed their own self?

Taking your OWN life is a self made decision. No matter what kind of stress you are under, it is still your choice to kill your own self.

It doesn't make it right to bully and mentally intimidate, but does it rise to the level of actually physically causing death by your own hand.

A person who takes the course of killing themself may have other problems than the "bullying" that contributed to that decision. I don't think you can say that the horrible people who bullied the girl are on the same level of criminal culpability as someone actually committed homicide.

I don't want to sound cold and heartless, but normal people do not kill themselves over being treated badly. Normal people also shouldn't treat others the way she was treated, but that is another issue entirely

Big Mike said...

@Kirk, good point, but my karate sensei emphasized that after all those Chuck Norris flicks juries (and prosecutors I would presume) think that guys with even minimal training in karate can apply unbelievably devastating force.

If only.

At any rate I'm basically a peaceable sort of guy. Karate never was my style. I prefer saws over fists for cutting boards.

Almost Ali said...

New "Hussein" Ham said...
By the way ... Mrs. Bighead ... you're not "in the New York Times."

Check out the NYTimes' front page, you'll see Lady Althouse listed not once, but twice.

Where, by the way, she [also] expresses the right, legal opinion. In short, that the prosecutor is on a sociological witch hunt.

Synova said...

A thought about statutory rape...

This case is actually an argument for criminalizing this definition of rape, isn't it?

The idea is that young people are not always capable of consent. And because of that, we want to protect them if possible. From the sounds of it (and I agree that it's hard to even write the words "passed around") the girl may have consented, but she was most certainly used. It's my feeling that the boys in question mostly likely are guilty of what statutory rape laws were meant to punish.

If we're asking... was what these bullies did actually against the law or was it just kids being mean... the answer is that from all appearances the intention of the rape laws is met, and certainly technically they are met.

It seems to me that the rape charges, at least, are valid and treating the rapists as criminals is valid.

Sucks to be them, but they're hardly a vision of virtue having allowed and participated in abusing the girl after they used her. And young men really do need to be reminded (and young women, too) what the term "jail bait" means.

Synova said...

And I think that a great deal of the other bullying behavior that's been mentioned would actually be illegal if it involved adults. We tolerate behavior in kids that we'd never tolerate for ourselves. And if the assault or battery or property damage or theft or slander or stalking (what is pushing or calling names or knocking books on the floor or wrecking something that belongs to someone else) doesn't rise to the level of police involvement (a neighbor spit at her brother, called the cops, and found out that *she* was in danger of getting arrested) an adult who sexually harassed a co-worker or followed the co-worker home to verbally abuse her would lose their job.

If a parent treated their child this way they'd lose custody and possibly be charged with abuse.

Is the harassment and abuse felony level harassment and abuse? Maybe or maybe not... but I'm not at all convinced that it doesn't count as illegal already.

I heard once that the first child abuse case was taken under laws made to protect animals.

Now there are laws protecting children in their homes.

Is it really outrageous to think that the same protections that adults are given in the workplace and children are given at home ought to apply to minors in situations with *non* family members?