Supreme Court

Shock Jock Gets Prison For Advocating Murder

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Hal Turner, a right-wing radio shock jock that has advocated violence against minorities and judges multiple times, was convicted last Friday of threatening the lives of three appeals judges. It was his third trial on the charge—two prior juries had deadlocked. The third one took only two hours to convict him. Unusually, the second and third trials involved the testimony of the judges themselves. Turner faces up to 10 years in prison.

The case against Turner tested the bounds of the First Amendment. When does speech become a threat, an incitement to violence? In the wake of a decision by the three judges that Chicago's handgun ban was constitutional, Turner posted on the Internet the judges' pictures, names, addresses, a map of their court house and this call to action: "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."

Constitutional trivia: The case that pissed Turner off so much was an earlier ruling in what eventually became McDonald v Chicago, the landmark gun-control case.

Ironically, the judges Turner targeted are known to be conservative and perhaps, if they'd had a blank slate to decide the case, might have struck down the handgun ban. But at that point, the case's outcome upholding the law was compelled by Supreme Court precedent. When the judges' decision was appealed, the Supreme Court struck down the handgun ban, in the process making new constitutional law.

More here.

And speaking of SCOTUS, howze bout some cameras in that courtroom?:

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  1. The case against Turner tested the bounds of the First Amendment. When does speech become a threat, an incitement to violence?

    Dunno where the line actually is* but this mouthbreather obviously crossed it.

    Have a nice stay in prison, dipshit.

    * We have trials to determine that sort of stuff.

    1. The problem is, the law must be clear as to whether a certain action is illegal BEFORE the action is taken. Determining what the law is during the trial is not acceptable.

      I’m not so sure this crosses the line, personally. If the addresses and map of the courthouse were not available publicly, then I’d say he was both inciting and providing the means to commit murder, which is probably enough.

      If that information was already publicly available, his crime was merely saying that they deserved to die, which to my mind is still protected free speech.

      1. Is it assault or just a frat prank? It’s not written down any-fucking-where, is it? What the hell do we do? Maybe send it to a jury to decide?

        1. If a person is involving themselves in it voluntarily, it’s not assault. Same as a football game.

          1. Really?

            You can’t commit assault during a sporting contest? I know you didn’t think that though before hitting submit.

            1. If you go far outside the bounds of the sporting contest, that is assault.

              So yes, running into the catcher at home plate is not assault; but picking him up and bodyslamming him, ripping off his mask and stomping on his face with spiked shoes is.

              1. A late hit? Charging the mound> Ending Rudy Tomjonovich’s (SP?) career?

                OMG! It’s not written down anywhere in the legal code. I guess we would have to let a jury decide what is and issn’t illegal conduct in a game.

            2. If you believe that he meant, let alone said, that consensual participation in a contact sport includes consent to all possible physical contact, then no amount of thinking before he hit submit could have accounted for your black hole-inducing density.

          2. If a person is involving themselves in it voluntarily, it’s not assault. Same as a football game.

            Uh – neither of those statements are correct.

            You can agree with a person to have them murder you, but that doesn’t mean they murderer can’t be tried for murder. You might recall there actually was a case exactly like that in Germany a couple years ago.

            Just because someone agrees to have you kick the crap out of them doesn’t mean the state can’t prosecute you for battery.

            Similarly, even in football, you agree to physical contact only as can reasonably be expected within the sport. You might (or might not) recall a case several years ago in which an NHL hockey player (I can’t recall all the details now) was charged by the locality where the game was held when he slashed another guy in the face with his stick. His conduct went so far beyond the kind of physical contact and potential injury a person can reasonably be considered to have consented to in playing hockey, officials viewed it as actually constituting assault and battery.

        2. Of course, you’re one of the folks who thinks it’s A-OK to pelt passing drivers with snowballs and, if they have the temerity to get out of their cars and yell at you, to pelt them with snowballs. So I understand if you’re fuzzy on the issue of assault.

          1. Wasn’t there a case a few years ago involving a pitcher throwing a ball at a batter in the batter’s circle? How did that come out? I’d consider it assault given how many players have been injured by pitches in the regular course of the game.

    2. I don’t see any “obviously” about it. Judges that try to take away our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms ought to be worried about armed resistance — and people should be free to exercise their First Amendment right to point out that judges have crossed it.

      Some of the earliest power grabs by the federal government failed when some of the federal agents disappeared when they went out to enforce it.

      1. I’d have hung the fucking jury on this one.

        Someone who takes away my freedom should fear retribution for their tyranny.

        1. I probably wouldn’t have voted to convict either, but not because I agree with what the guy did, just because I don’t think saying someone deserves to die is a threat in and of itself.

          1. Not even when they post the judges’ addresses and maps of the courthouse?

            1. If you cant find the courthouse on your own, you probably arent going to pull off the murder anyway.

        2. Someone who takes away my freedom should fear retribution for their tyranny.

          Agreed. Threats against public officials should be permissible by default.

          Short of this guy showing up at their homes with a deadly weapon, I vote to acquit.

        3. The judges didn’t take away your freedom — the legislators who passed the law in question did.

          1. Both did. The legislators passed the laws, the judges chose to not strike them down as violating the Second Amendment (or whichever abusive government behavior they let stand).

    3. I’m not seeing the problem here.

      If someone is stupid enough to go harm/kill someone else on the urging of a 3rd party, that’s their problem.

      As I understand assault, there has to be a credible and immediate threat to carry out a violent act, not, as you say, some 2-bit mouthbreather blowing off steam and making threats on the intertubes.

    4. We have trials to determine that sort of stuff.

      Yeah, and if we don’t get the verdict we want the first time, we keep trying until we do.

  2. * We have trials to determine that sort of stuff.

    As many as it takes!

    It was his third trial on the charge — two prior juries had deadlocked.

    1. That’s what happens when a jury is unable to reach a verdict.

      But you knew that.

    2. Hm. So much for jury nullification.

      1. It’s not nullification unless the jury agrees on “Not Guilty”.

        Sometimes a hung jury mean the prosecutor will give up (at least until after the election…), sometimes it means they’ll offer a better deal, and sometimes it just means starting over.

  3. Wow, pretty sad dude. Pretty sad indeed. So much for freedom of speech. Almost makes me shamed to admit I am American!

    Lou
    http://www.web-privacy.es.tc

    1. Anon-bot is more libertarian than J sub on this issue. 😉

      1. Ypu’ll get my decoder ring when you pry it off my cold dead finger.

    2. Are you American-made hardware, software, or both, Lou?

  4. These judges deserve to be killed…. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions.

    I don’t know if he knows this or not, but a judges rulings aren’t nullified when he or she dies.

    1. Other judges’ rulings might be influenced if they realized that the proles were pissed off enough at the erosion of freedom to fight back at the worst excesses.

      Rulings can be reversed.

      1. Nation of laws and all that? No, huh?

        1. Do you know who else had laws and all that?

          1. The British colonies in the early 1770s?

      2. Yes, but killing them doesn’t change the rulings automatically. We won’t suddenl be out from under the tyranny of these laws just because someone murders a judge. Also, I don’t like the idea of a murderous mob setting precedent or making laws by force. I know, I know: which side am I talking about?

  5. It was his third trial on the charge — two prior juries had deadlocked.

    Is this one of those cases where he would’ve been tried as many times as it took until the prosecution got the jury pool they needed to convict? Can’t have a guy verbally abusing politically ambitious former prosecutors because that would set a bad ‘weak-on-crime’ precedent blah blah etc etc.

    1. Either of the first two juries could have stopped the process by unanimously finding him not guilty. Those are the rules of the jury system…only a unanimous verdict ends the process.

      1. Well, the prosecutors realizing they will keep getting deadlocked juries can also end the process.

        1. But, um, that didn’t happen, did it?

          1. No, apparently the prior cases weren’t deadlocked enough — 11-1 or 10-2 might make a prosecutor think it’s doable on the third try, two 6-6 deadlocks would likely lead to them abandoning the case.

      2. Why isn’t failure to get a unanimous conviction the same as failing to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt? It seems to me that anything short of a unanimous decision to convict should be an acquittal.

        1. That’s going too far in the opposite direction. The scales are already stacked in favor of the defendant by the reasonable doubt requirement; at some point you have to acknowledge that society has an interest in the guilty not going free.

          1. The standard is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

            If the jury is 11-1 for conviction but you believe this is insufficient for an acquittal aren’t you necessarily saying that the one hold out has unreasonable doubts (or is acting in bad faith)?

            What about 10-2 up through 1-11? Are the doubts of the 11 unreasonable because 1 juror disagrees?

            I understand that unanimity makes for a nice, bright line but if some jurors believe that the state hasn’t met its burden of proof, all the more so once you get past the 11-1 and 10-2 scenarios, I don’t see why that shouldn’t result in an acquittal.

            Again, how does one square from 1 to 11 people saying that the state failed to meet its burden of proof with giving the state another bite at the apple without necessarily implying that those 1-11 people were doubting unreasonably?

  6. I wouldn’t come within a country mile of advocating this guy’s thoughts, but it seems to me a very long way from “these guys deserve to die” to “at my behest I command some minion or other to kill these guys.” It also seems pertinent that no one actually killed them, or tried, which might lead one to suggest that if no one, reasonable or not, saw fit to act on these words, it’s tough to argue that it could reasonably be taken as a valid threat of murder.

    1. It depends on whether the address and map information was publicly available. If not, he was providing the means to murder as well as the incitement, which gets closer to a real threat.

    2. I think you’ve hit the issue. There is a decided difference between publicly saying, “These people, whom I have identified by name and photograph, deserve to die for the following reasons, someone should kill them and I would not be upset if someone did so,” versus saying, “I want you to kill these people – here is what they look like; here is where they live; get it done by the end of the week.”

  7. From one of the links in the story:

    In the wake of a decision by the three judges that Chicago’s handgun ban was constitutional, Turner posted on the Internet the judges’ pictures, names, addresses, a map of their court house and this call to action: “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.”

    Yeah…that’s very, very close to a death threat, especially with the personal details (addresses, etc.) included.

    1. If someone says, the president deserves to die, and then posts “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC” does that constitute a threat?

      If the information he provided was already publicly known, it’s hard to take it seriously as a threat. A person who wanted to commit crimes against them already would have had the same means at their disposal even if he hadn’t posted these things.

      1. “”If someone says, the president deserves to die, and then posts “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC” does that constitute a threat?””

        The Secret Service will determine that after they interview you.

    2. Saying “you deserve to die” is different than saying “I am going to kill you”.

      1. What about…”Go kill him”?

        1. Exactly. The question here seems to be, “Does saying these people deserve to die, and here’s their names and addresses and social security numbers” equal “Go kill them”? It’s a very close call, IMHO, hence the reason for two hung juries.

        2. He didn’t seem to say that. And I think saying “Go Kill him” would have to be accompanied by some reasonable expectation that the person would actually do it.

        3. Wouldn’t that be considered conspiracy to murder, rather than a mere threat?

          1. In order for there to be a conspiracy you have to take some kind of concrete step in furtherance of the conspiracy. And you have to agree to the conspiracy. Here, there is no evidence anyone took any steps toward harming the judges. And there is no evidence Turner ever agreed with anyone to take such steps.

            And example of a conspiracy would be me saying to Turner, “I think we should kill those judges”. And Turner then saying “Yeah let’s go kill them”. And then me “going out and buying a gun and casing their houses”.

        4. Neu–Newt Gingrich is an evil SOB and deserves to die. Go kill him.

          Is he dead yet?

          1. Is there a difference between a random person telling an anonymous comment poster to go kill someone without the address and a map and a broadcasting to a large group, complete with information needed to carry out the act?

            1. Who you callin’ random?

              Not as far as I can see. In neither case does the instigator have any power or sway over 3rd parties. There’s no employment, contract, etc. The available information of the supposed targets isn’t relevant, IMO. It’s not hard to find out where someone lives.

              As I mentioned upthread, if someone is stupid enough to harm or kill someone else based on your say-so alone, that’s their problem (and the victim too, alas).

              1. Hmmm, let’s try a thought experiment:

                The following SCOTUS justices tried to overthrow the Second Amendment in McDonald v. Chicago: STEVENS, BREYER, GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR.

                I would shed no tears if someone killed them for this act of trying to take away my liberty.

                Oh, and here is the google map of their customary place of business:

                http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=nancy pelosi congressional office&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl

                How is any of the above different in substance from what the person in question did? Should I be tried in court for this exercise of my first amendment right if I remove the disclaimer about it being a thought experiment?

                1. Does narrow cast versus broadcast matter?

                  Anyway, without your qualifiers it would be a similar act. Part of the question a jury would have to answer is whether your words are a credible threat or not.

                  I think I come down against the result here, but I agree with J sub D that a trial is the way to determine if the line was crossed or not should the justices or those with a vested interest in their safety perceive your words as a credible threat.

                  1. Does narrow cast versus broadcast matter?

                    I think it does and goes to the heart of the ‘credible threat’ part of the equation.

                    Narrowcasting means that I know you personally or are within physical reach of you (or can easily reach you). Broadcasting is just that: casting your thoughts aloud for any receiver to hear.

  8. “White supremacist Hal Turner named three federal court judges with connections to the Matt Hale case as public officials who “need to be reined in.” Turner also posted the judges’ full names and addresses on his Web site, and read their names during a March 5, 2005, appearance on the Fox News program “Geraldo.”

    How is that any different than Craig Kilborn putting up a picture of Bush with the sign “snipers wanted”? Sure he was making a joke. But does anyone here think that had someone shot Bush Kilborn wouldn’t have been happy?

    This case strikes me as setting a really bad precedent. Unless you can show me where this guy took concrete steps to harm these judges, I don’t see how it is a crime.

    1. If he had said “audience do everything you can to kill these guys” that would be one thing, but he seems to have simply opined on what certain people might deserve.

  9. This guy is clearly an ass, but he didn’t even threaten anyone. Maybe because of his position as a media figure, he could be guilty of incitement, or something like that, but saying they deserve to die is not a threat. I think that a lot of people deserve to die (and I even occasionally say so), but I have no intention of ever killing anyone or encouraging anyone else to do so.

  10. Also this is a case of real selective prosecution. This is guy is a white supremacist, about as low on the social totem pole as you can get. His rhetoric is only slightly more over the top than a typical Kieth Olberman show. I could totally see Olberman going off the deep end and claiming that Andrew Breitbart deserved to die and here is where he lived. If he did that, he would be fired. But no way would he ever be indicted.

  11. Hal Turner was also a paid FBI informant. Maybe they should arrest his employers.

    1. Is he the dumb ass who wrote The Turner Diaries?

        1. Thanks. My lunatic white supremacist scorecard is out of date.

        2. The Turner Diaries is a novel written in 1978 by William Luther Pierce (former leader of the white Nationalist organization National Alliance) under the pseudonym “Andrew Macdonald”
          But if you want to read it:
          Free download

          1. Thanks but I will pass.

          2. Do they have a Kindle version?

            1. That is why you should avoid proprietary formats. An e-book reader that can’t handle a pdf is like an MP3 “digital music” player that can’t play MP3s

              1. MP3 is proprietary. Maybe you meant Ogg Vorbis.

    2. +2…why no comment from Reason about him being a FBI informant? he was…he really was.

      Repeat, the FBI paid Hal Turner. Does anyone care?

      1. Is there anyone in white supremacist circles who is not a paid informant? Seriously, if you are a white supremacist and not on the government payroll, you must feel pretty pathetic right now. It almost like being a midget who doesn’t have a TLC reality show.

        1. I can’t remember which FBI agent wrote that absent informants who regullarly paid their dues most non-smuggling white supremacist groups would go bankrupt becasue the others were losers who couldn’t hold down a job… 😉

        2. Randy Weaver always insisted he wasn’t… I think the last ever heard from him was, through a megaphone, “WHY ARE THEY SAYING I AM A RACIST WHEN THOSE ARE NOT MY VIEWS” = proof of racism = ergo, on Sessions payroll. At least at the USDA they give you a “soft landing,” sheesh

        3. It almost like being a midget who doesn’t have a TLC reality show.

          Politically incorrect, but funny… +1

  12. This is one of those situations where the stupid is so thick and pervasive you could walk on it. Judges usurping people’s rights will piss off people, people advocating the killing of judges will end poorly.

    1. So this statement will end poorly?

      “The following SCOTUS justices tried to overthrow the Second Amendment in McDonald v. Chicago: STEVENS, BREYER, GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR.

      I would shed no tears if someone killed them for this act of trying to take away my liberty.

      Oh, and here is the google map of their customary place of business:

      http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=nancy pelosi congressional office&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl”

      1. “”So this statement will end poorly?””

        Are you advocating the killing of judges?

      2. I’m the last person to sit idol while getting raped. However, I’m not going to scream rape because someone grabbed my ass.

        The point was that there is enough WTF wrongness in this whole situation to go around. Do I think the radio guy had a right to say the judges should die in a fire (or whatever he said)? Sure. Do I think it was a smart thing to say in his position? Fuck no. Do I think judges should defer to retarded opinions from previous courts that allows them an escape route for stupid positive law decisions like gun control? No. Do I think they deserve to die for doing so? No.

        Now if you want to talk extremes and I find out my neighbors are being rounded up or judges decided to do something like detain all muslims or all red heads or all cat owners, then it’s game on. I don’t see saying judges should die as an inherent threat, I see multiple trials to get a conviction a farce, and I see telling a listen audience that judges should die as a stupid thing to do.

        There’s just a lot of stupid up in this bitch, some more powerful than others.

  13. But at that point, the case’s outcome upholding the law was compelled by Supreme Court precedent.

    I beg to differ.

    In this case, I don’t believe SCOTUS actually overturned any of its prior decisions. Ergo, those decisions were not dispositive of this case. The lower court could have written an opinion identical to the one handed down by SCOTUS, and it would have been a valid decision that would have been upheld on appeal, no?

    1. Further, a lower court judge with guts could disagree with a SCOTUS decision, refuse to enforce that decision, cite the Constitutional language and how that conflicts with the SCOTUS ruling, and refuse to play along with bad precedent.

      The Constitution is NOT whatever 5 or more SCOTUS justices say it is.

      1. Um, yeah it is. In your example with the lower court judge who is ignoring precedent, the loser in that case would just appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the ultimate decider here. If you lose there, there’s nobody to appeal to. If the Supreme Court decided that the constitution said everybody had to start wearing pizzas as a hat, I guess I would have to sign up for pepporoni headgear.

        1. Sure, sure, if there was dispositive precedent and the lower court disregarded it, SCOTUS could reverse on appeal.

          But that doesn’t mean the lower court is “compelled” to rule either way.

  14. The last neighborhood in America! You know what to do, Fred Rogers

  15. Several commenters have advanced the question of “Was this a threat or incitement?”

    It is clearly not “Hey Joe, take this crowbar and kill that man.” Nor is it “I’ve got a gun and I’m coming for you.”

    So it is a good question; this is not a slam dunk: if it was fully equivalent to either of those it would be easy.

    The flip side is:

    1. Do you think the individuals named feared for their lives or limbs? Or those of their families?
    2. Do you think it was a reasonable and legitimate fear
    3. Do you think they would have been under significantly less real threat if Mr. Turner hadn’t made that statement.

    If you can answer “Yes” to all three parts, than is it reasonable to say that Mr Turner’s words should be treated as incitement?

    We’re mucking around at the blurry edge where the requirements of civil society meet the sovereignty of the individual. Tricky place where hard cases can make bad law.

    1. No, No, and No. This guy is a crank. And there is no evidence anyone took him seriously. If he issued such a threat to me, I would tell him how well armed I am and wish him luck.

      1. Indulge my curiosity, if you would. Do you think that these conditions (including the mens rea addendum) are a reasonable way to attack the problem?

      2. The government took him serious enough to steal money from me and give it to him.

    2. It occurs to me that I neglected to consider mens rea. There should be a fourth condition:

      4. Do you think that Mr. Turner meant for the named individuals to perceive an increased risk to themselves, or for some member of his audience to actually attempt to killed the named people as a result of his statements?

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