“The defendant’s acts were deliberately planned to invade Tyler’s privacy, deprive him of that privacy and deprive him of his dignity.”
Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure delivered her opening statements Friday morning in the case of New Jersey v. Dharun Ravi. McClure laid out the prosecution’s version of the events that led up to Tyler Clementi’s death.
On August 6, 2010, Rutgers sent out dorm assignments to its incoming freshman. Clementi and Ravi were assigned to Room 30 in Davidson Hall. According to prosecutors, Ravi began researching Clementi’s e-mail address and eventually found out he was gay. The roommates met on move-in day, August 28, 2010.
The prosecution's case
McClure said the case could be divided into three chapters:
Chapter one begins on September 19, 2010, when Clementi asked Ravi for private use of the room. Ravi agreed and went to the dorm room of his friend, Molly Wei. From Wei’s room, Ravi allegedly accessed his computer’s webcam and the two of them saw Clementi and his male guest kissing. The prosecution says other students were invited to watch.
Ravi tweeted, “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into Molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” Ravi’s Twitter account was public which allowed Clementi to see his tweet.
McClure told the jury chapter two begins two days later. On September 22, 2010, Clementi asked Ravi for use of the room again. Ravi agreed and took to his Twitter account once more: “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between 9:30 and 12. Yes, it’s happening again.” Clementi saw the tweet and shut down his roommate’s computer before his guest arrived.
“The defendant’s actions were mean-spirited, malicious and criminal. They crossed the sacred boundary of human privacy,” McClure said.
Clementi filed a complaint with the dorm supervisors saying he wanted a single room because his roommate was spying on him. He later jumped off the George Washington Bridge the evening of September 22, 2010.
Chapter three began the next day, September 23, 2010.
According to the prosecution, Ravi tried to cover his tracks by deleting his tweets and blaming it on a draft folder. That same day, Ravi finds out the police are interviewing his high school friend, Wei, the prosecution said. They add that while Wei is being questioned by investigators, Ravi texts her about his version of the events of September 21.
“These acts were purposeful, they were intentional and they were planned,” McClure concludes.
The Defense's case
After a brief break, defense attorney Steven Altman stepped up to the podium with one thing on his mind – proving the prosecutors had mislabeled his client.
“The State of New Jersey wants you to believe that Dharun is a bigot, homophobic, a hateful, anti-homosexual, anti-gay person,” argued Altman, “No matter what the evidence, they’re going to give you that spin.”
Altman reminded jurors that at the time of the alleged crime, Ravi was 18-years-old but still a boy by maturity standards (Ravi turns 20 later this month). Altman suggests that Ravi’s curiosity led him to look up Clementi online, which is normal behavior in a time where anyone from a four-year-old to an 18-year-old is well-versed in using technology to gather information. Besides, Ravi and Clementi came from different parts of New Jersey and Ravi was curious to know if they shared any interests, Altman said.
The biggest thing Altman wants jurors to remember is that Ravi never showed any hostility towards Clementi due to his sexual orientation. Nor is there any evidence to prove Ravi broadcast any images of his room with Clementi’s guest, M.B.
Who is M.B.? Altman would like for the jurors to ponder that as well. Students described M.B. as a “creepy older dude” who looked out of place on a college campus.
As Altman reached the end of his opening statement, he wanted jurors to keep this in mind, “[Dharun] might be stupid at times but he’s an 18-year-old boy and he’s certainly not a criminal.”