Supreme Court to weigh Facebook Threats & Free Speech

The Supreme Court will decide if, when considering free speech rights of people who use threatening language on Facebook posts and other electronic media, you must also look at the intent of the person posting the threatening language.

In Pennsylvania Anthony Elois has served nearly four years in federal prison for violent posts directed toward his estranged wife, as well as facebook threatslaw enforcement officials and even former co-workers.

He claims says he never meant to carry out any threats., but that he was depressed.  He further explains that he made the online posts in the form of rap lyrics as a way of venting his frustration after his wife left him.

The real issue: objective intent vs. subjective intent.

SCOTUS will consider whether conviction of threatening another person under federal law “requires proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten.”

At his trial, the jury was instructed to use an objective standard, and could find Elonis guilty if an objective person could consider his posts to be threatening.

In the appeal to the Supreme Court Elonis argues for use of a subjective standard, considering whether Elonis meant the messages to be understood as threats.

The argument for using a subjective standard seems applicable because of the type of communication involved here.  Online postings are impersonal, and can very often be misinterpreted.  How many times have you posted something and people took it the wrong way?  Further, comments intended for a smaller audience can be viewed by others unfamiliar with the context and interpret the statements differently than was intended.

POTUS weighed in, claiming a subjective threat would undermine the purpose of the federal law prohibiting threats.

Let’s look at the Supreme Courts history in similar situations – the court has previously cautioned that laws prohibiting threats must not infringe on constitutionally protected speech. Examples include “political hyperbole” or “sharp attacks” that are not all-out-threats.

Arrested for Assault?

Charged with making threats?

If you’ve been accused of a criminal offense involving assault or with making threats of violence contact attorney Tristan LeGrande by calling 281-684-3500.

Why marijuana legalization won’t happen in Texas anytime soon

Hate to break it to everyone getting their hopes up with the recent movement on marijuana regulation nationwide, but despite Colorado and Washington making marijuana use legal for recreational use and public opinion polls showing public support for legalization in Texas, it will be a long time before we see recreational use made legal in the lone star state.

Here is why:

First, in January 2015, there will most likely be 19 or 20 Republican senators, 92 to 98 Republican representatives, and a Republican governor. Mostly due to the gerrymandering of the districts in Texas, even if the GOP experiences a few bad years at the polls, the number of Republican representatives and senators in Texas is very unlikely to drop below 80 and 17 respectively between now and 2022. Also, it is likely  Republican Greg Abbott will be the governor between 2015 and 2019 – Republicans will probably dominate the governors office until at least 2023.

Second, unlike Colorado and Washington, the Texas Constitution does not provide for citizen initiatives. So it’s impossible for Texas marijuana legalization supporters to follow the model of their counterparts in those two states, where advocates gathered signatures to place the legalization reform on the ballot, and the state’s citizens determined the fate of the reform.

What this means is that a marijuana legalization bill, like any other proposed new statute, must be approved by the Texas House of legalize_itRepresentatives, Senate, and the governor. For marijuana legalization to become law, it must have the support of at least 76 of the 150 representatives, between 16 and 21 of the 31 senators, and the governor.

Third, most Texas state House and Senate districts, are effectively determined in the party primary in the spring, not in the general election in the fall — at least for the time being. Republican legislators are more concerned about losing the primary than losing the general election. Voting to legalize marijuana would cost them far more votes in the Republican primary than it would gain them. Hence, they choose to oppose any marijuana legalization reform bill.

Last, no one expects Democrats to win the Texas Legislature between now and 2022 (even after that is doubtful). EVEN IF democrats start to win seats in swing districts, they will be reluctant to support this legislation out of the fear that it will reduce their prospects of victory in the November general election.

A more realistic and attainable goal would be to have medicinal marijuana approved in Texas.  The battle to get this done has been lost up to this point, but for supporters of reform it is a necessary first step.

Appeals Court reinstates charges for “Animal Crush” Videos

Meanwhile in despicable human garbage news – the 5th Circuit Court of appeals reversed the district court’s ruling allowing for prosecution to proceed against Nicole Richards & Brent Justice for “animal crush” videos.  The videos these two made are meant for the sexual gratification of their viewers; in the videos scantily clad Richards stabs & chops off the limbs of animals, even urinates on them. One videos the police seized animal_crushshows Richards puncturing a cat’s eye with a shoe heel.

These two are the first to be prosecuted under the federal Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.

The District court got it dead wrong – they ruled that the crush videos were a protected form of free speech.  What they ignored is the utter horrendous inhumanity and cruelty that these depict, casting them far asunder from protected speech.  Luckily the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals put their foot down, ruling that he First Amendment does allow limited restrictions on some speech, including obscenity. THIS IS THE EPITOME OF OBSCENE.  Also noted was that the Secondary effects of the videos, not the actual content is the focus of the legislation this was meant to ban.

The appeals court does not always get it right.  That is being generous – but this time, they did.  We can’t allow for people to profit from the horrible and cruel torture, maiming and killing of animals.