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In re JP.

Court of Appeals of Michigan

September 24, 2019

In re JP.
v.
JP, Respondent-Appellant. PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Petitioner-Appellee,

          Gogebic Circuit Court Family Division LC No. 2017-000048-DL

          Before: Swartzle, P. J., and Gleicher and M. J. Kelly, JJ.

          Gleicher, J.

         Young teenagers sometimes make poor judgments born of impetuosity, immaturity, and an inability to foresee the painful consequences of their actions. Here, four teenaged girls decided they did not like a 13-year-old boy, and fantasized via group text messages about killing him, his dog, and even his goldfish. The texts are not pretty or clever. They also were not sent to the boy. He learned the content of the hateful messages from his mother, and never actually read them.

         The prosecutor charged one of the girls, respondent JP, with a violation of MCL 750.540e(1), which subjects those who send text messages intended to "terrorize, frighten, intimidate, threaten, harass, molest or annoy" another person to criminal punishment. Despite that no evidence supported that respondent intended that the boy would ever see the text messages, a jury adjudicated her as responsible for the violation and the trial court entered a dispositional order. Because no evidence or reasonable inference suggests that the teenagers intended to terrorize, frighten, intimidate, threaten, harass, molest or annoy the teenaged boy discussed in their texts, we vacate the orders of adjudication and disposition.

         I

         The four involved girls formed a "Snapchat" group. Snapchat is an application for mobile phones used to share text messages, photographs, and other images among a defined group of "real friends." See <https://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialSnapchat/about>. One feature of the application vaporizes the messages after a few seconds unless a recipient deliberately saves them. Even then, the messages remain accessible for only 24 hours unless a participant captures a "screen shot." In other words, the messages are usually temporary and ephemeral, by design. See State v Bariteau, 884 N.W.2d 169, 172 n 1; 2016 S.D. 57 (2016) ("Snapchat is an image messaging mobile phone application in which a user can send a photograph or text message with a set time to expire. The receiving user can only view the text message or photograph for one to ten seconds before the image or text message expires and is automatically deleted from the mobile phone.").

         Each of the girls in the Snapchat group used a personally selected moniker rather than their real names. Respondent was 7Up. The other girls were Lady Gaga, Dream Ruiner, and Me. All were in sixth or seventh grade. The boy involved, S, was a seventh grader. The girls assigned a name to their Snapchat: "R.I.P. [S] (& Goldfish);" R.I.P., of course, means "rest in peace."

         The girls did not like S. He pushed the books off Lady Gaga's desk and called her "fat and gay." S also "shoved" the books off respondent's desk. S denied the allegations.[1] Based on the perceptions of at least some of the girls that S had transgressed the norms of middle school decorum, the girls fantasized about killing S, his goldfish, and his dog (if he had one). Here is a sample of their creative work:

7UP [respondent]: I WILL MARGARITA SQUARE UP LIKE [S]'S HEAD
LADY GAGA: HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAGA [sic]
7UP: LETSGOOOOO
(Image Omitted)
LADY GAGA: WE SHOULD STAB HIM
DREAM RUINER: (Image Omitted)
7UP: YES
* * *
7UP: MURDER HIM LET'S DO IT
LADY GAGA: AND HIS FAMILY AND HIS DOG
7UP: YEEEESSS
DREAM RUINER: MURDER HIM
LADY GAGA: AND HIS GOLD FISH
DREAMRUINER: XD[2]
ME: What if he doesn't have a dog!!
7UP: WE WILL DRUG HIM THEN STAB HIM TO DEATH
LADY GAGA: And rip his skin off
And fee[d] it to his dog
7UP: Yes
LADY GAGA: [cartoon bitmoji of a woman captioned "wow, such amaze, very story, :0, many interest, so care"]
7UP: YES TO ALL 0 IT
* * *
LADYGAGA:[3]
(Image Omitted)
7UP: AWEEEEEE
LADY GAGA: @[S]'s gold fish
7UP: WHO ELSE HATES [S] IN HERE
LADY GAGA: ME
* * *
7UP: PATRICIA WILL KIL [sic] HIM ONE DAY
LADY GAGA: Yee
* * *
DREAM RUINER: His head will turn to a fucking ...

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