Feature: Soapbox Musings

Hard Cases Make Bad Law

Author: Robert Weller
Published: March 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

Without gainsaying that Dharun Ravi was guilty of a hate crime, the prosecution never proved that he hated gays.

It didn’t matter. In cases where there is no way to compensate a victim juries often go for the extremes.

Such a case more than 200 years ago led to the saying that bad cases make tough law Tyler Clementi is dead. His soul left adrift on a Twitter posting.

He committed suicide after Ravi made a video of him kissing a lover.

Ravi was found guilty of the most serious charge, bias intimidation. He faces up to ten years in prison and possible deportation.

No one will ever know how much the video played in Clementi’s decision to kill himself. Certainly other things that had happened to him after he came out of the closet caused great hurt. Some of these events involved people he knew, including his mother.

Also weighing on the jury would be the explosion of privacy invasion that are part and parcel of the Web.

Surveillance cams are on many streets throughout the nation. People are growing tired of it.

And the Web has become a powerful tool for bullying.

This decision hopefully will cause some people to think twice before acting in harmful ways with handy Web tools, including smart phones.

Making Ravi a martyr to some could have an impact that was the opposite of what the jury intended.

Deporting him would be the latest string of events, a few warranted no doubt, that make the naturalization of immigrants a fleeting thing, like attaching a bungee cord.

Just as being born on U.S. soil has meant citizenship if desired, jus soli. The nation should be careful. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

As Ravi and the court's decision have become Twitter trending topics, those predicting that the decision will have a major impact on social media may not understand how powerful a force it is.


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Article Author: Robert Weller

Journalist for 40 years, working in 30 countries and 11 states. Mostly for AP. Coverage has included Columbine, South Africa, Alaska Pipeline, India Gandhi assassination, wars, disasters, art, PTSD, skiing, Liberia, Uganda et al. …

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