O'BRIEN: When it comes to crime stories, mob mentality rules on Facebook

Posted: Jun. 13, 2014 6:34 pm Updated: Sep. 5, 2014 8:15 pm

In today's world, justice is swift.

Need proof? Just log on to Facebook, check out the Herald-Whig's page, and see what people have to say about crime stories listed there.

No matter the type of case -- from the run-of-the-mill methamphetamine arrest to more heinous crimes like the recent report of child abuse against a Hannibal toddler -- the "web warriors" tend to come out in droves to form their own lynch mob of sorts. In the American legal system, the accused are still presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Judging by what is posted online, it appears many people believe the exact opposite to be true.

The Internet loves to convict before all of the facts are in.

"Meth abusers should be tossed in prison and have the key thrown away" is a popular battle cry from people who comment online. Never mind that it costs much less to rehabilitate drug offenders than it does to stick them in prison. Many of the same people who comment are just as vociferous about wasteful government spending and doing everything possible to keep taxes down.

Prison isn't cheap. Believe it or not, everyone who gets caught up in meth -- or other drugs, for that matter -- doesn't deserve to go to prison. Yes, some go through rehab programs and relapse. Others, however, stay clean and take full advantage of the second chances they are given by the court system. Some truly deserve to be behind bars.

The case involving the Hannibal infant earlier this week certainly touched a nerve.

Dustin T. Dye, 29, of Hannibal, has been charged with two counts of first-degree assault. He is alleged to have injured the baby while he was caring for it on June 3. The baby suffered two skull fractures, three brain bleeds, and buttocks and vaginal bruising, according to an examination by an emergency room doctor at Hannibal Regional Hospital. Dye is being held in the Marion County Jail on $250,000 bond. He faces up to two life sentences if he is convicted.

Many people would like to see Dye face street justice instead of going through the legal process.

"I can't believe there is a bond for him," one person on Facebook wrote. "He already ran once. I truly believe this case would receive more justice if they just let him free to the public."

"I say let the public know when and where this scum will be released and let's see how long and fast he can run," another wrote. "Bet he makes it 10 steps."

Some others think Dye should go to prison.

"Life without parole and let him rot," one person wrote.

Many more comments on Dye's story were removed by The Herald-Whig because of its policy about offensive language and threatening language.

Dye made his first court appearance Friday. It will take many months -- not minutes -- for his case to weave its way through the system. If the case goes to trial, lawyers will argue, witnesses will testify, and all the details surrounding what happened to the baby will come out. A jury will decide Dye's guilt or innocence, and a judge will determine how long Dye will spend in prison if he is found guilty.

That's the way the system should work.

While it may be cathartic, nothing good comes from joining the mob mentality when it comes to online commentary.


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