Friday, September 23, 2011
Guilty of disturbing a public meeting and conspiracy? Or exercising free speech rights?
That was the issue before an Orange County, California jury deciding the case of the sometimes-called "Irvine 11" or " Irvine Muslim Students 11" who disrupted a speech at UC-Irvine by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in February 2010. The 10 students on trial (the case against another student was dismissed) argued their protest was within the First Amendment, but the prosecution reportedly argued that the students had acted to deny Oren of his free speech rights by exercising a "heckler's veto" and "censorship."
An edited version of the protests and attempted speech, with the reactions of university officials, other audience members, and police officers is worth watching:
The OC Register has a slide show and coverage of the contentious litigation, including the decision to charge the students criminally. Many law professors and other scholars and students called on the DA to drop the charges.
While the jury found the defendants guilty, the judge quickly sentenced the defendants to probation and no incarceration according to the LA Times.