Suicide Issue Not Aired in Rutgers Webcam Trial

Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010.

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    AP
    Dharun Ravi listens to testimony during his trial at the Middlesex County Courthouse on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012 in New Brunswick, N.J. Ravi is accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, intimate encounter with another man. Days later Clementi committed suicide. Ravi, 19, faces 15 criminal charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime punishable by up to 10 years in state prison. (AP Photo/(AP Photo/The Star-Ledger,John O'Boyle)

    For all the attention Tyler Clementi's suicide got, it has a place only at the edge of the invasion-privacy trial of the roommate who's accused of using a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with a man.

    Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010, days after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, allegedly watched part of the liaison that took place in their dorm room.

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    The man seen in a webcam liaison with a Rutgers University student testified Friday in the trial of the student's roommate, who is accused of spying on the two men during intimate moments. New Jersey reporter Brian Thompson reports. (Published Saturday, Mar 3, 2012)

    The Clementi saga is perhaps most noticeable for its place among a string of suicides by young gays nationwide who are said to have endured bullying. But the death is a minor element in the story that developed in the first six days of testimony in Ravi's criminal trial.

    Ravi, 20, is on trial for 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and several charges that accuse him of covering up other crimes. He is not charged in Clementi's death, and Judge Glenn Berman has been cautious about how the suicide would come into the trial.

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    Molly Wei, the Rutgers students who shared her computer with Dharun Ravi as they allegedly watched Tyler Clementi's sexual encounter with a man, took the stand against Ravi Monday. Brian Thompson reports. (Published Monday, Feb 27, 2012)

    Prosecutors are precluded from linking the alleged spying to the suicide. Defense lawyers cannot make the case that Clementi killed himself for other reasons.

    When prospective jurors were brought into the courtroom last month for the first time, Berman told them that it was the case involving Clementi, and that Clementi had killed himself.

    In her testimony, Rutgers student Alissa Agarwal was asked what day she spoke with investigators. She matter-of-factly said it was the day after Clementi committed suicide. And on Friday, the man witnesses said was seen in the web stream kissing Clementi took the stand.

    The man, who was identified in court only by the initials M.B., was asked about how late he intended to stay in Clementi's room when they met there on Sept. 21.

    He answered: "There was every reason to believe that I was going to see him again." He was not asked more and did not say more.

    The lack of testimony about Clementi's death has created some gaps in the story's timeline.

    It has been widely reported that Clementi left a final Facebook status on the night of his death: "Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry."

    A Rutgers police officer testified that about an hour after the message appeared, he was dispatched to Clementi's room to try to determine his whereabouts. But the officer did not say why he was dispatched to check on the student.

    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.

    The family has set up a foundation to honor Clementi, and one of its main goals is suicide prevention.

    In interviews with The Associated Press, his parents, Joe and Jane Clementi, and his brother, James, say they don't know why he killed himself — a question the trial won't seek to answer.

    "I'm not sure that knowing why it happened makes it any better or makes it any easier," James Clementi said. "Someone I love so much isn't here."

    Testimony is expected to resume Monday with investigators and technical experts.