Federal Judge George Wu does not like surprises. At the start of today's pretrial hearing for Lori Drew, Wu asked if any of the gathered counsels, who included U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien and high-powered defense lawyer Dean Steward, if they'd seen Law and Order last week. The lawyers shrugged “No” and Wu explained that the show seemed based on the matter before them, namely, U.S. v. Lori Drew, in which a Missouri mom is charged with using a bogus MySpace account to bully a teenage girl she disliked. The girl, Megan Meier, wound up committing suicide. The charges Drew faces don't include persuading Meier to commit suicide, so Steward wanted the ears of prospective jurors to be shielded from all mention of the S-word, which he contended would be extremely prejudicial to Drew.
“The jury,” Steward complained, “is going to look at a series of computer messages leading up to a girl's suicide and convict not only my client but me and anyone sitting near me.”
Assistant U.S. attorney Mark Krause argued that while causing Meier's suicide was not the goal of Drew's efforts, the death indicated how well Drew achieved her goal of causing Meier emotional stress.
Judge Wu mulled this over for a while before deciding “suicide” could be uttered during the trial, although he did admit, for those still wondering, that he did not watch the Lori Drew-inspired Law and Order episode.
“Somebody told me,” said Wu, “it had a surprise ending.”
There was a bit of a surprise today, though, and it came when Steward pointed out that Drew could be found guilty on a lesser, misdemeanor charge — something, AUSA Krause admitted, he had known but kept quiet about.