Monday, July 27, 2009

Where Is the Line?

Over at Findlaw, Julie Hilden takes a look at a case that begs the question of where the line should be drawn between free speech and criminal incitement.

The case involves Hal Turner, a white supremacist from New Jersey with an Internet radio show and the like. He took great exception to the Seventh Circuit's recent decision concluding that the Second Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court's recent Heller decision, was not incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment and therefore did not apply to the states. The unanimous decision, from a panel that includes a pair of conservative judicial luminaries, basically said "our hands are tied by prior precedent, which the Supreme Court hasn't overruled yet."

Turner was not impressed:

The charges are based on the fact that on his blog, Turner named three federal appeals judges who had together upheld a handgun ban; opined that each judge 'deserve[d] to die'; and provided the judges' addresses, their phone numbers, and the locations of their workplaces. On his blog, Turner also wrote of (and perhaps to) the judges, 'Observe the Constitution or die.'
Turner is charged with making death threats against the judges. As Hilden points out, the traditional imminence doctrine for threatening speech doesn't fit all that well with the Internet age. Is that enough to chuck it and start again? We'll see as Turner's case moves forward.

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