Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blame The Victim

The trial of Kayla Narey and Sean Mulveyhill has been scheduled, and their lawyers have already indicated that they intend to blame Phoebe Prince for her own death.

It's a classic approach, one that has been tried and succeeded. A group of American teens will claim that Phoebe Prince hanged herself because she would have anyway, whether they bullied her or not.

The trick is to convince the jury that the relentless, cruel bullying had nothing to do with Ms. Prince's suicide. Attorneys must present medical experts to claim that the young lady, recently arrived from Ireland, was so fragile mentally that she was suicidal long before Mr. Mulveyhill sweet-talked her into his bed. Young Phoebe, they will say, had serious issues that were absolutely not exacerbated by Ms. Narey and her cadre resorting to vicious cruelty to win back her boyfriend.

Convincing twelve people that the actions of a small army of bullies on someone already on edge is a tricky proposition. The average jurist is familiar with bullies, and probably recalls someone in their past who liked to pick on the weak ones.

A bully doesn't pick a fight with someone who'll pound them to a pulp. They choose someone they can intimidate, and that someone is often a child with a weakness to be exploited.

In Ms. Prince's case, it was a weakness to fit in with a new group of people in a new country with an entirely new culture to navigate.

The defense attorneys are poring over Ms. Prince's medical records, school transcripts and police reports, all in an effort to find scraps of evidence that will fless out the skeleton of their theory. Then will come the psychologists and other experts who will state that the teens accused of driving a young woman to suicide were just normal teens, doing normal things, and it was Ms. Prince who was at fault.

When it comes time for jury selection, you can bet that the defense team will challenge anyone who was ever bullied or has dealt with bullying of their own children. And then they'll dismiss parents of teen-aged daughters who won't shrug off Sean Mulveyhill's sexual affair with Phoebe Prince as youthful exuberience.

It's one thing to prove that the victim was psychologically predisposed to suicide. It's quite another to convince an adult that sex with such a fragile girl could possibly be consensual. The penalty for statuory rape is more severe than that for bullying a young lady to death.

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