Friday, February 26, 2010

True Threat?

The Maryland Court of Appeals has vacated a criminal conviction and remanded the matter for a new trial in a case involving an e-mail from the defendant to the website for Governor Martin O'Malley. In evaluating wehether the email constituted a threat, the court below erred in its jury instructions:

...because it did not define the term "threat" or instruct the jury about how it would determine whether the e-mail communication consituted a threat. In this regard, the court should have instructed the jury as to the requirement of a true threat, which is distinguihed from constitutionally protected speech.

Here is the message:

O'Malley, getting ready to lose my wife after 24 years of marri[a]ge. 3rd construction co. & 2nd house I am going to lose because of no good fucking government like you and pieces of shit like you. If i [sic] ever get close enough to yoy[sic], I will rap [sic] my hands around your throat and strangle the life from you. That will solve many problems for true AMERICAN'S [sic]. Maybe you can send your MEXICAN army after me. I HOPE YOU DROP DEAD BEFORE I GET TO YOU. I WOULD HATE TO TO [sic] LOSE MY LIFE BECAUSE OF A PIECE OF SHIT LIKE YOU. FUCK YOU TRULY

The e-mail generated a police investigation. The defendant was cooperative and told police he wanted to take it back as soon as he hit the "send" button. He was nonetheless sentenced to six months for the conviction.(Mike Frisch)

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