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Monday 20 February 2017

Accused in Phoebe bully case ask to see her records

Grainne Cunningham

Published 11/08/2010 | 05:00

LAWYERS for two teenagers accused of bullying Phoebe Prince, the Irish teenager who killed herself in the US earlier this year, have asked a judge to let them see the girl's medical records in a bid to show she was suicidal long before she took her own life.

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The teenagers are among six former students at South Hadley High School, Massachusetts, who are charged in connection with Phoebe's death on January 14, 2010. All have pleaded not guilty.

The 15-year-old had just recently relocated to the US from Co Clare. She apparently hanged herself after months of bullying and harassment both at school and through texts and the internet.

This week, lawyers for defendants Flannery Mullins and Sharon Velazquez filed a motion seeking the medical and counselling records, arguing that they show "repeated patterns of cutting, negative attention seeking behaviour, medication, drug use and prior suicide attempts".

Prosecutors had no comment to make about the application.

In March 2010, a state anti-bullying taskforce was set up as a result of Phoebe's death.

After an entire day of harassment and taunting on the day she died, she walked home from school and hanged herself in the stairwell leading to the second floor of the family apartment. Her body was seen by her 12-year-old sister.

Even after her death, some students left hurtful messages on the memorial page her friends set up on Facebook.

In April, court paperwork was released giving insight into the last days of her life and her struggles against bullies at her school.

According to the released documents, Phoebe was stalked around the school, and could not even escape into the bathrooms.

Sean Mulveyhill, Austin Renaud, Kayla Narey, Flannery Mullins, Ashley Longe and Sharon Chanon Velazquez face charges in connection with her death.

Harassment

The district attorney involved in the case, Elizabeth D Scheibel, has said any "internal struggles'' the teenager had did not excuse the alleged harassment.

"As a matter of law, the existence of a victim's disability does not legally excuse a defendant's criminal actions,'' Ms Scheibel said. "Under many statutory schemes, it serves to aggravate the offence, rather than mitigate it.''

Ms Scheibel has said Phoebe was subjected to a "nearly three-month campaign of verbally assaultive behaviour and threats of physical harm,'' far more intense and concerted than ordinary teenage bullying.

Irish Independent

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