More Cyberbullying Cases Seen After “Jerky Kid Defense” Failure


The defense that Jharun Ravi was a “jerky kid” failed miserably with his conviction in the Tyler Clementi suicide case, says the New York Times. Lawyers said the result gave new potential to hate-crime prosecutions for cyberbullying and digital spying because it seemed to repudiate the notion that youth was a defense. “The debate in this case was, Was this a stupid college prank or criminal intimidation? And the jury gave a clear answer,” said Suzanne Goldberg, a gender law expert at Columbia Law School. Lawyers said the verdict would encourage other hate-crime prosecutions involving young defendants. Reluctance by prosecutors in the past had suggested that there were few legal consequences to online prying or to social-media irreverence that became abusive.

The failure of the jerky-kid defense is likely to change the legal landscape, the Times said, by showing that jurors can conclude that young people who are sophisticated enough to spy on, insult, and embarrass one another electronically are sophisticated enough to be held accountable. The verdict showed that the notion of innocent youth as a shield to culpability might not hold as much sway as it once did in court, said former federal prosecutor Marcellus McRae: “Jurors will say their kid or kids they know are more sophisticated than that. For jurors, it doesn't pass the common-sense test.”

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