Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Suggesting judges should be killed is a bad idea.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.” However, suggesting three particular “patriots & tyrants” should be killed, posting their pictures, work addresses, and maps to the addresses on the internet will get you 33 months in prison. That is the lesson we learned from Hal Turner’s sentencing today.

Mr. Turner, the subject of a brief post by Mr. Torvik and occasional informant for the FBI, was annoyed with a unanimous decision made by Seventh Circuit Judges Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, and William Bauer last year. The decision upheld a (since-overturned) handgun ban in Chicago and some of its suburbs.

In response to the ruling, Mr. Turner wrote a blog post. In the post, Mr. Turner quoted the same Jefferson quote I mentioned. However, according to an ABA Journal post, Mr. Turner then added: “It is time to replenish the tree! Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions.” The New York Times reports that Mr. Turner also wrote, “If they are allowed to get away with this by surviving, other judges will act the same way.”

In case people did not get Mr. Turner’s point, he went on to refer to the murder of husband and mother of United States District Court Judge Joan LefKow. Mr. Turner wrote, “Apparently, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court didn't get the hint after those killings,” and, “It appears another lesson is needed.”

Mr. Turner was charged and, after two mistrials, convicted of threatening to assault and murder the three judges with intent to retaliate against them for performing their official duties. At his sentencing, Mr. Turner continued to demonstrate a poor grasp of the concept that one catches more flies with honey than vinegar. North Jersey.com reports that while speaking for almost an hour, Mr. Turner claimed that the judge engaged in “legal skulduggery” over the jury instruction as to what constitutes a threat. Mr. Turner, also called the trial a “three-ring circus.” Then, having sufficiently insulted the person imposing the sentence, he asked for probation. While the prosecution asked for a six-year sentence, Judge Donald E. Walter imposed a 33-month sentence. Mr. Turner, unsurprisingly, plans to appeal.

What do you think Mr. Torvik, is 33 months an appropriate sentence for writing threats on a blog? Does it matter that Mr. Turner’s words went unheeded, or at least unacted on, by every American? How intimidated could the three judges have been if none of them requested security as a result of the threats (and did not even testify at the first of the three trials)?

It seems to me that Mr. Turner should have followed the lesson learned by Hunter S. Thompson when he was threatend with prosecution for suggesting that then Vice-President Bush be stomped to death by a crowd of Marquette University students. Instead of threating to kill a public official, just suggest that they be placed naked in a room with an "angry, horny, acid-crazed elk."

1 comment:

  1. 1) RE: Hunter S. Thompson. His threat was not credible because Marquette students clearly don't have the cognitive capacity to stomp anyone to death. ZING!

    2) Without investigating the law or the details of the guy's comments, I have to say this is a little disturbing to my rather absolutist First Amendment sensibilities. I can see there being a crime for threatening a judge in a case that one is actually a party to. But this sort of invective is just not that different than what you see in the comments of any popular blog. It's not even that far from, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

    3) That said, bringing up the assassination of Judge Lefkow's husband and mother kind of makes me think Turner is a good candidate for the electric chair.

    4) You may have noticed that all my comments now consist of numbered lists.


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