Voices Rise Against 'Unfair' Verdict in Indian Student's Case

Washington, Mar 20 (IANS): As an online petition to the White House suggesting Indian American student Dharun Ravi was "prejudged and declared guilty" by media gathered momentum, more voices were heard across the US against what is seen as an "unfair verdict".

Ravi, a former Rutgers University student charged with spying on his gay roommate Tyler Clementi, was found guilty by a New Jersey jury of 15 counts including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. He faces ten years in prison and deportation to India.

By Monday night the petition asking the Obama administration to "address the fact that media is driving Justice System's decisions" and "18 year old Rutgers student Dharun Ravi is NOT Biased," had gathered 2,000 signatures. It must get 25,000 signatures within a month to get a White House response.

Commenting on the verdict, Sunil Adam, editor, The Indian American, wrote in the Huffington Post: "Ravi, it appears, has been turned into the proverbial sacrificial lamb for society's collective guilt about its own bias intimidation against homosexuals."

"Make the Punishment Fit the Cyber-Crime," exhorted Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate, writing in the New York Times.

"The idea of shielding vulnerable groups is well intentioned," she said. "But ... these civil rights statutes are being stretched to go after teenagers who acted meanly, but not violently. This isn't what civil rights laws should be for."

Some experts, cited by msnbc.com called the guilty verdict against Ravi "precedent setting" in the battle against bullying, but others decried it as entering the "realm of vengeance."

"This is well beyond looking for justice and into the realm of vengeance considering the number of charges against Ravi and the seriousness of them," Bill Dobbs, a longtime gay activist and civil libertarian was quoted as saying.

"As hate crimes prosecution mount, the flaws of such laws become apparent," he wrote.

However, Louis Raveson, a law professor of criminal and civil trial litigation at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, suggested "It will be an important precedent throughout the country."

Meanwhile, Marc Poirer, an openly gay professor of law and sexuality at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey, said he was concerned about the verdict.

"I think that the law didn't fit very well," he said, calling Ravi's actions those of a "dumb 18-year-old" that "went wrong."


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