An appeals court has overturned the conviction a former Rutgers student convicted in 2012 in a criminal case that stemmed from the 2010 suicide of his roommate Tyler Clementi,
A new trial has been ordered in the case of Dharun Ravi by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey in Newark.
Ravi spied on the Clementi’s dorm room encounter with another man then discussed what he saw on the webcam with friends on Twitter. After a humiliated Clementi found out what was happening, he committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.
Ravi was convicted in 2012 of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, and tampering with evidence as well as other charges. He was sentenced to 30 days in a county jail and released after 20 days due to good behavior.
The appeals court overturning of the conviction stems from the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling last year that the bias-intimidation law was unconstitutional. The evidence presented on the bias intimidation charge ‘tainted the jury’s verdict on the remaining charges,’ wrote the judges in their opinion.
But the judges wrote that ‘the social environment that transformed a private act of sexual intimacy into a grotesque voyeuristic spectacle must be unequivocally condemned in the strongest possible way.’
They added: ‘The fact that this occurred in a university dormitory, housing first-year college students, only exacerbates our collective sense of disbelief and disorientation. All of the young men and women who had any association with this tragedy must pause to reflect and assess whether this experience has cast an indelible moral shadow on their character.’
Since their son’s death, parents Joe and Jane Clementi launched The Tyler Clementi Foundation to discourage cyber bullying and dispel the notion that they themselves once held that homosexuality is a sin.
After the court ruling, they said in a statement that they ‘are not legal experts so we cannot interpret the law. All we can do is try to understand and deal with are the facts as we know them now.
‘We know that Tyler’s private moments were stolen from him and used to humiliate him. His life was forever affected and the lives of those who knew and loved him have been forever changed.
‘In light of today’s decision, we will do what we encourage all people to do before they push that send button, and that is to pause and consider the implications of their message. Does it encourage and build someone up or does it destroy and harm another person?
‘Our world moves very fast which pushes us to be impulsively spontaneous and sometimes harsh.’