Kentucky Teen’s Case Shows Conflicts Between Technology, Law

A 17-year-old Kentucky high school student who was photographed while being sexually assaulted by two other teenagers at a boozy high school party found herself targeted in a contempt motion earlier this week after revealing her attackers’ names in a Twitter post. While media pundits and online commenters have applauded the girl’s decision, her actions represent yet another instance where modern technology is colliding with the traditional administration of justice.

The girl, who allowed her name to be printed in a news story about the Twitter post, decided to reveal the names of the two teenagers who assaulted her after learning of a plea bargain they were offered. Upset with the terms of the plea bargain, which prohibited the victim and the defendants from discussing the case publicly, the girl decided to take matters into her own hands by posting the teens’ names on Twitter. The defendants’ attorneys filed a motion for contempt, which they later withdrew as moot after media reports brought additional attention to the case.

While the victim certainly didn’t agree with the court’s decision, courts that handle cases involving juvenile defendants routinely seal related records and order that no one discuss the case.  It’s a means of trying to protect the young people who become involved in the criminal justice system, and it typically works well. In this instance, it is unfortunate that the victim felt further victimized by the contempt motion, but this is yet another example of how the justice system’s long-standing protections of both victims and the accused are being constantly challenged by the ability of anyone to disseminate information worldwide with the push of a button.   

Posted: 7/25/2012 2:45:28 PM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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