Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Justice Calls the Help Desk

Straight from the same region of the state that helped tear apart the fabric of the US Constitution with the seam ripper of eminent domain, Eastern Connecticut can now boast another court case that is shocking in its implications for the average American. Julie Amero, a substitute teacher, was convicted on four counts of risk of injury to a minor for exposing middle school students to pornography on a school computer. The conviction came after she testified that the sexually explicit material on her computer popped up as a result of adware, not from any prurient searches of her own. She faces up to forty years in prison.

The Internet is still a largely lawless frontier. The downside of its freedom is the prevalance of vigilante justice in the guise of the American court system. Lynch mobs are everywhere, kicking the bucket out from under noose-necked citizens and leaving them to strangle in the wind.

Few people in a position to determine the fate of any given defendant truly understand the technology--from detectives at the local police station, to jury members, to United States senators who believe the 'Net is a "series of tubes." Combine that with the fact that the defendants themselves may not be well equipped to navigate the cyberscape (or, as in Amero's case, to shut down the computer), and suddenly this lynch mob turned trial-by-jury becomes a three-ring circus, with each act more ignorant than the last.

I wish I could trust that Julie Amero's case was decided on facts borne out by experts in the field of Internet technology. Instead, I wonder if the case was decided by semantics. The Connecticut statute under which she was convicted states that, on each of four counts, she "wilfully or unlawfully caused or permitted the victim to be placed in a situation that endangered the child's life or limb, or was likely to injure his health or impair his morals."

Wilful. Unlawful. Each word is so thick with meaning that it can stand on its own in court proceedings. But the Internet is amorphous. Many of its definitions are unwritten or untested. My only hope is that everyone involved in the case worked in the most exhaustive way possible to responsibly reconcile these concepts so that the punishment truly fits the crime.


Lauren said...

Yes, but sadly she's lucky she isn't a guy. They'd hang him.

ewe are here said...

The sound you hear is my head banging against my kitchen table. Repeatedly.

Good grief!

binkytown said...

My employer (which shall not be named) is having major problems with some people in CT right now.. If you are reading press releases you can probably figure it out. I'm not saying we are perfect but we just got majorly slammed by them. Partly why I've been too busy to comment lately. Very thoughtful and disturbing..