Thursday, March 01, 2007

Julie Amero Trial: A US Joke?

The conviction of substitute teacher Julie Amero has led to no small amount of heated debate in technology and anti-malware forums. On January 5, 2007, Amero was found guilty of four counts of "Risk of Injury to a Child, in violation of Connecticut General Statute 53-21(a)(1). The charges stemmed from Amero's actions regarding a computer which was serving up pornographic images in the classroom. Proponents of Amero claim she was the victim of adware and that the trial itself is a case of conspiracy. But under Connecticut law, the cause - i.e. the alleged presence of adware - is a moot point and it was Amero's failure to protect the children that led to conviction. Central to the due diligence question is why Amero did not simply turn off the computer. The transcripts show that at some point in her substitute teacher training - far previous to the day in question - Amero was instructed "not to touch anything in the teacher's classroom without permission". Later in the testimony, Amero indicates she did ask for permission to use the computer on the day in question. And she testified that she continued to use that computer constantly throughout that same day. But when asked why she didn't pull the plug to stop the porn-storm, Amero states "I did not pull the plug because I was taught never to touch anything in the teacher's classroom." Amero also left the door to the classroom open, and left the classroom unattended for lunch and breaks while the computer continued to dish up porn sites. Asked if she was concerned a child might look in and see the porn, she said 'yes'. Asked if she considered closing the door, she said 'no'. Amero wasn't exactly forthcoming about the nature of the problem either. A witness for the defense testified that when Amero came into the teacher's lounge that morning, she asked for advice on how to stop pop-ups but didn't mention anything about the porn deluge. And the principal testified that just a just weeks prior to the offense, Amero had been warned about spending too much time Internet surfing and not enough time actively engaged teaching the class. The jurors in this case were not asked to decide how the porn got onto the computer - nor were they asked if they agreed with the possible penalties associated with a guilty verdict given the circumstances of this particular case. They were, however, explicitly asked to weigh the evidence presented and vote whether the defendent exercised due diligence in protecting the minors under her charge from material capable of impacting their morals. You may read the transcripts here.
This is what I call a typical US case. This case is completely impossible and possibly irrelevant in a European country and shows how some US laws could be interpreted if it comes to these kind of questions. My advise here is to become more open for such kind of things and try to handle this at the basic. I mean ... open a case against the adware writers who caused the real problem from the beginning. What a mistake... If you were on the jury, what would you have done?