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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Courts - "SCOTUS to consider online-threats case"

Supplementing yesterday's post, there are several stories today on the cert grant in Elonis v. U.S. Here are some quotes from Robert Barnes' story in the Washington Post:

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider whether violent images and threatening language posted on Facebook and other social media constitute a true threat to others or simply the protected rants of someone imbued with what one advocate called “digital courage.”

The court accepted the case of a Pennsylvania man who was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for posting the ominous photos and making the violent rants on his Facebook page against former co-workers, law enforcement officials and especially his estranged wife.

Anthony D. Elonis contends that the postings, which included the lyrics of songs by the rapper Eminem, were free speech — attempts to deal with the pain of his personal problems and not specific threats to harm anyone. The justices will consider the case in the term that begins in the fall. * * *

“Did you know that it’s illegal for me to say I want to kill my wife?” Elonis wrote. “Now it was okay for me to say it right then because I was just telling you that it’s illegal for me to say I want to kill my wife.”

The justices said they will consider whether federal law “requires proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten.”

The court for years has held that “true threats” to harm another person are not protected speech under the First Amendment.

At Elonis’s trial, the jury was told that he could be found guilty if an objective person could consider his posts to be threatening. Elwood told the court that was the wrong standard and that the jurors should have been told to apply a subjective standard and decide whether Elonis meant the violent messages to be threats.

Sentencing Law Blog has a post here, quoting from an AP story by Sam Hananel.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 17, 2014 10:47 AM
Posted to Courts in general