Burden of Proof: The Elephant in the Clementi Trial


The irony is not lost on some. Whether spoken or not, it was Clementi's death that captured the media's attention and propelled the case to a grand jury and now a courtroom. Its specter looms over every aspect of the case, but it cannot be discussed.

But talk about it Altman did, trying to uncork the bottle.

"Like any evidence, if it comes in half-way, it's going to be very difficult to put it back in a bottle," said Robert Honecker, a former New Jersey prosecutor. "What the defense is trying to do is show that there are other explanations as to why Tyler Clementi killed himself, other than he had his privacy invaded. The defense is trying to broaden the possibilities as to why this young man committed suicide."

Before the trial, Altman told reporters he believed that everything should be shared with the jury.

Before today, Clementi's suicide had come up only in passing. But there is one constant reminder in the courtroom of the death. Clementi's parents and other relatives -- including, at times, both of his older brothers -- sat through each of the first six days of the trial.

Bias Intimidation

Huang's earlier testimony offered what the prosecution hoped would prove its most punitive charges of a hate crime.

Huang, whom Ravi has known since high school, confirmed she received a tweet message from Ravi encouraging her to join the "viewing party" on Sept. 21, 2010, telling her he was going to secretly turn on his computer webcam a second time to capture Clementi and an older male friend meeting in a college dorm room. More importantly, for the state's contention of a hate crime, Ravi tweeted her: "We have to keep the gays away."

Despite a stream of state's witnesses -- including Huang -- who said they never heard Ravi demonstrate any hostility toward homosexuals, the state will no doubt use this statement to help support its charge of bias intimidation -- that Ravi was trying to invade Clementi's privacy because he wanted to intimidate Clementi because he was gay. And thus far, it's the prosecutors' only real offering to support their most significant charge.

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