Julie Amero Update: March 1st

by Karoli on March 1, 2007 · 6 comments

I’ve been swamped getting ready to go on vacation later this week, but there were some interesting posts around the web today that I wanted to link up before getting off to bed.

From Crime & Federalism:

W. Herbert Horner, a defense witness and computer expert, was
prepared to testify that the images appeared on the screen as a result
of the acts of others. However, the trial court judge, Hillary
Strackbein, did not permit him to offer his opinion. Why? He was not
disclosed as an expert in a timely fashion.

Judge Strackbein’s ruling may well be an abuse of discretion.
Ordinarily, the defense need not disclose witnesses prior to trial.
Indeed, in one recent case regarding the late disclosure of an alibi,
the Appellate Court ruled it was an abuse of discretion to refuse to
permit the witness to testify.

BoingBoing has an opinion about the juror who spoke out last week claiming that “it was obvious that the pages were clicked on they were not the result of pop-ups”.

That statement is in direct conflict with the testimony on record. Amero
did everything short of turning off the computer, which she was
instructed by a superior not to do. The children from her class
testified — right in front of this juror — that she did make every
effort to hide what was being displayed.
He also seems to have
picked up the same in-depth knowledge of Internet Explorer possessed by
the Norwich police computer expert, which could be defined as; little
to none.

Fred’s obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed but, can you
blame him? After all, he’s a product of the same Connecticut school
system that’s teaching kids it’s OK to send an innocent woman to jail
in order to cover your own incompetence.


downloadsquad.com links up to the Steve Bass’s column quoting Norwich Detective Mark Lounsbury, the Norwich Police Department’s very own IT expert.  He says:

Dear Mr. Bass, Unfortunately the truth in this matter is
yet to be told to all those who were not located in the courtroom
during the trial. Those in the courtroom saw and heard the truth. Once
sentencing is done the truth CAN BE presented to the world IF they want
it. I’m thinking the world doesn’t want to hear the truth. IGNORANCE IS
BLISS. The lies are exciting, bringing up STRONG emotions. OMG, that
poor person, victimized by the Evil Government and its minions.

It continues to amaze me how people can base their opinion on what is fed
to them. Did anyone ask the Expert for the evidence he recovered which
would support his claims? The “curlyhairstye script”, those
pornographic googlesyndication.com generated pop ups? BUNK also known
as errors of commission. Would you like to know the truth? Once
sentencing is over I’d be more than happy to let you see the source
code, scripts, etc.

I’ve received allot of calls and emails regarding this. All from people interested
only in TELLING me their opinions or TELLING me they’re going to get
me. Not once has anyone called or written me to ASK me a question. They
apparently have what they want. I work hard every day for the victims
of crime. I search for the truth not for me but for them. If what the
newspaper reported about my testimony was my actual testimony, taken in
context, don’t you think there would have been some consequences, a
rebuttal, something.

Feel free to write if you wish.

Mark Lounsbury

When Steve Bass took him up on his invitation and sent back a list of questions, he received this reply:

Dear Mr. Bass, Once the sentencing phase for this case is
done I can answer all your questions. I have all the information you
seek. My opinion is not important but I am fleshing out a theory
concerning site blocking software which was in place and how to
circumvent it. I can provide you w/ the source code showing all the
.htm and javascripting for each web page, images from those pages,
date/time of creation, MD5 hashes, etc. I will contact you after
sentencing. Thank you,

Mark Lounsbury

Okay, I’m no expert in the area of “source code showing all the .htm and javascripting for each web page, images, etc.” and I’m especially not an expert in the area of MD5 hashes (though I’ve read that they tell exactly nothing), so if anyone wants to weigh in with a deeper explanation of what Det. Lounsbury expects to prove with this evidence, bring it on in the comments.

But one thing does keep coming back to  me over and over.  The jury never really saw what Julie Amero saw.  They never got a sense of the rapidity of the popups.  Anyone who’s ever been in a mousetrap or porn storm knows that those windows just flood — they popup fast and furious.  The jury really never got a sense of what it must have been like to be minding a classroom full of smartass seventh graders while being confronted with a screen full of unwanted and likely illegal popups, unable to leave the room and believing that she couldn’t turn off the computer.

Here’s something else:  That computer was used for attendance for each class.  If she had turned it off, what would have become of the attendance reports? She knows she has to stay logged on, doesn’t realize that turning off the monitor won’t turn off the computer (that’s something that surprised my mother not too long ago, too, and she’s been using computers for years), so she does the only thing she can do — she places herself physically between the kids and the screen.

One other thought on this and then I’ll move on — One of the kids said she was “scrolling up and down” on the window.  That supports the mousetrap/porn storm because the windows cascade.  So as she closes one, there’s cascading popups down the screen, which from a distance, would give the impression of “scrolling up and down”.  I sure wish that they’d actually tested what these kids could see from a distance, too.  It was just taken as a given that they could view the detail on the screen as well as they did without any challenge.  I’m not advocating verbal lashings on cross-examination, but I don’t take the word of a teenager at face value without at least testing it against reality.  Yet it went unchallenged that they could actually see the detail they saw (like they couldn’t have gone and figured it out later or hadn’t seen it before…)

Didn’t Julie Amero have the right to a reasonable expectation that the filters the school had put in place were operational?  So imagine being her, sitting at the teacher’s desk confronted with window after window after window, some horrible, some not so bad, and wondering what the heck was happening to a computer that was supposedly protected and thinking she had no clue what she did to trigger it or how to stop it.  It’s appalling to think that there wasn’t much more emphasis placed on the failure of Robert Hartz to get that filter updated or else disconnect the computers from the Internet until it was.  Yet the transcripts are clear that he didn’t even realize it wasn’t working until they went to investigate the complaints.

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  • http://www.malathionman.blogspot.com Malathionman

    What kind of lawyer did she have? Did the teachers union support her on this? It sure seems like a good defense team could easily blow this case out of the water.

  • http://drumsnwhistles.com karoli

    Hi Malathionman,

    As far as I can tell, the union stayed as far away from her as the district did, and her lawyer was a bit…well…uneducated, I guess, in what he needed to show the jury to prove that she lacked intent or in fact even acted.

    Because she was a substitute, she didn’t have the union protections that full-time teachers have.

  • Joan Thorn

    Hello from Australia!
    I have read most of the trial transcripts on the Norwich site and am amazed that the jurors found her guilty. Her defence lawyer was abysmal. His closing address should have included the panic of handling this situation – the pop ups etc – for the first time as a computer illiterate, untrained sub-teacher who got no help from her peers after she sought it. Hence her supposed actions, such as leaving the door open, can not be viewed in the same way as in “normal” circumstances in the “light of day”.

    It is my overwhelming suspicion/feeling/hunch that, based upon my reading of teh transcripts such as the manner of her firing from the school, that she has been made a convenient scapegoat by other people trying to protect their behinds.

    It is more than enough to put anyone off teaching as a profession.

  • http://lizditz.typepad.com Liz Ditz

    Here’s another story — a teacher was substituting in another class & showed a episode from a Discover Channel show called Man vs. Wild, starring Bear Grylls


    No problem, I think stupidly. This is public television. His clothes are wet. This makes sense. No real problem. Then, faster than I can get to the projector remote, old Bear strips down to his British flag design boxers, and you guessed it, off they go and old Bear is standing there in front of 30 ninth grade students naked as the day that little rascal was born.

    To be fair, they did fuzz out the most delicate parts of Bear’s anatomy, but that really did not make any difference. That man was standing in front of that class just as naked as he could be and I put him there. The kids went nuts. It was one of those classroom moments that make this job what it really is- chaos interspersed with moments of total madness.

    What to do?

    Well, I think, it’s too late now. May as well stick it out and hope old Bear does something that can justify a naked ice diver in a ninth grade classroom. So he finishes putting on dry clothes, building a fire, making everything OK. I act like it is completely normal for the kids to watch naked men walking around on snow. “Let’s watch one from the mountains” I suggest. You know, one that I have actually seen. One where old Bear keeps his clothes on.

    Outcome for the teacher?

    So I mosey on down the hall and have a short and embarrassing talk with my principal. She watches the clip of Bear taking off his clothes and then starts laughing. Very funny, I think. I like teaching. I don’t really want to have a short and painful talk with our superintendent and then have to go find work someplace where they do not have the Internet and projectors. Still, it was kind of funny. The principal tells me not to worry. After all, she notes, all you did was show the kids public television.

  • http://lizditz.typepad.com Liz Ditz

    The “while you are away” updates (I still have a news alert for amero)

    From Australia:


  • http://lizditz.typepad.com Liz Ditz

    And elsewhere, two 6th graders actually had sex and nothing happened to the teacher.

    Post #1

    News Story


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