“The First Amendment won’t stop a psych evaluation if you threaten to kill yourself,” Professor Plum noted. “So why would it protect you if you threaten to kill your wife?”
He read the mail. (More)
Ms. Scarlet took Professor Plum’s hand and they left together to join the resident faculty in the
wine cellar library, where they’ll spend the weekend drinking thinking on our motto of Magis vinum, magis verum (“More wine, more truth”).
In the staff poker game, the
Professor of Astrology Janitor looked at a pair of Red Jacks and opened with a pot-sized raise. Chef did not seem to feel threatened, as she calmly called. The flop brought the Ace of Spades and the Nine and Five of Diamonds. The Professor of Astrology Janitor tried not to sigh as he checked. To his surprise, Chef checked behind him. The Six of Clubs came on the turn. Now that worried Chef might have an Ace for a bigger pair, or an Eight-Seven for a Nine-high straight, the Professor of Astrology Janitor checked again. Chef paused for a moment and checked as well. The Queen of Diamonds on the river added a possible flush to the deal, and the Professor of Astrology Janitor checked again. Chef counted out some chips and put them back.
“You’ll only call if you have me beat,” she said, turning over a pair of Tens.
He showed his pair of Jacks and scooped in the tiny pot, saying, “I guess it’s better than losing.”
Professor of Astrology Janitor began his plaintive mewling and Chef went to the kitchen to make Thanksgiving Leftover Pot Pie, leaving your lowly mail room clerk to review the week’s correspondence….
Dear Ms. Crissie,
I know I wrote that I wanted to kill my wife, including how I would do it, what her body would look like after, where I would bury her, and how I would make it look like a stranger rape and murder, and I posted all of that on Facebook. And I wrote about how I would bomb a school or go on a killing spree, and then about how I would kill the female FBI agent who came to investigate my posts. But I also posted funny faces and wrote that I wanted to be a rap artist and this was my art and I was willing to go to jail for my First Amendment rights. So it’s not my fault my wife and that FBI agent feared for their lives. It’s like my lawyers will tell the Supreme Court this week, I shouldn’t have been convicted of making a threat unless the government can prove that I intended to scare them. Don’t you agree?
Anthony in PA
We agree that intent is an implicit element of every crime. However, we also note that where a statute does not specify an intent standard, courts have long held that a jury may infer that the defendant intended the foreseeable consequences of his actions. The jury in your federal trial held that a reasonable person would have felt threatened by your Facebook statements, thus you knew or should have known that your statements would be perceived as threats. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. Other federal circuits have held that this federal statute requires evidence of the speaker’s subjective intent – that you wanted to scare them – rather than inferring intent from whether a reasonable person would feel threatened. We also note that the First Amendment never protected “true threats,” so the issue is whether your statements constitute a “true threat.” We conclude that the New York Times’ Emily Bazelon summarized the case well:
If the Supreme Court requires evidence of a speaker’s intent to harm in true-threats cases, it could give the police and prosecutors one more reason not to bring them. Maybe that’s simply the unavoidable consequence of a broad interpretation of the First Amendment. Let’s be clear, though, that such an approach to free speech doesn’t come free. The choice in this case between points of view – Anthony’s or Tara’s – mirrors another choice, between types of personal liberty. His or hers.
We hope the Court decides that your right to publish vile, vivid descriptions of how you might kill your wife and an FBI agent is less protected than their right not to live in fear of you.
Dear Ms. Crissie,
Please tell me Chef’s Thanksgiving Leftover Pot Pie is more appetizing than Anthony in PA’s ‘art.’ Also, how do I make it? The Pot Pie, not his ‘art.’
Pie-Eyed for Breakfast in Blogistan
Dear Pie-Eyed for Breakfast,
We assure you that Chef’s Thanksgiving Leftover Pot Pie is far more appetizing. To make it, line the bottom of a casserole dish with leftover mashed potatoes. Next stir 3 cups of chopped turkey meat together with 1 12-ounce bag of mixed vegetables and 1 pint of leftover gravy. In the unlikely event that Chef has any leftover green bean casserole, she stirs that in as well. Pour the mixture over the mashed potatoes, then top with 2 quarts of leftover stuffing (or one box of cooked instant stuffing, if you have no leftovers). Bake at 375° for 30 minutes, or until cooked through. Bon appétit!
Anthony in PA; “the Supreme Court this week”; “jury may infer that the defendant intended the foreseeable consequences of his actions”; “a reasonable person would have felt threatened”; “First Amendment has never protected ‘true threats'”; Emily Bazelon.