Anything I can do (Part 4)- Happy V-Day!

In Uncategorized on February 14, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone (HB, D)! Hope you all appreciate those that love you today. Well, today’s quiz comes courtesy of constitutional law. Sometimes “ConLaw” is exciting, most of the time it’s not. I can explain over half of ConLaw in one sentence: the federal government can do almost anything as long as it says it’s “regulating the channels, instrumentalities, and substantial effects of interstate commerce.” Anyway, I didn’t choose such a question today…this one is fun! Good luck! (answer in the comments section)
Constitutional Law

After a state supreme court overturned the conviction of a murder for failure to give proper Miranda warnings, a reporter asked the murder victim’s father to comment on the case as he exited the court building. The father made the following statement: “Each one of the so-called supreme court justices is worse than a murderer because they make it possible for more sons and daughters to be murdered. I’d like to see every one of them strung up, like they should have done to the creep who was set free, and if someone will give me a rope, I’ll go in there and do it myself.”

A state statute with criminal penalties proscribes “the making of any threat to the life of safety of a public official for any act the official performed as part of the official’s duties in office.” Which of the following is correct regarding the statute?

a) The victim’s father could constitutionally be punished under the statute, but only if the state supreme court justices heard the threats he made
b) The victim’s father could constitutionally be punished under the statute
c) The victim’s father could not be constitutionally punished under these circumstances, but the statute is constitutional on its face
d) The statute is unconstitutional on its face

  1. Best answer: c

    This question involves a part of First Amendment law called “true threats,” which aren’t protected speech (i.e. the government can restrict them). A statute like the one here is a valid restriction of true threats (so “d” is incorrect). Another aspect of the case law is that true threats don’t need to be heard by the target to be unprotected speech, so “a” is incorrect. The question is whether in this case, the distraught father should be held responsible for his comments. I said yes (answer “b”) basically because I thought it was pretty graphic and specific. I could see the answer going the other way (answer “c”) since he did just come out of the court and would understandably be very upset. I feel for him, but I apparently didn’t feel for him enough to let him off here. Hopefully you did. After all, it’s a day for love!

  2. Darn. I would have picked B, too. What if he had left off the “If someone will give me a rope…” part and just flat out said he was going to hang them for what they did? Would B be right? Or does this still not count as a true threat considering his distress?

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