Opinion: 1st Amendment in jeopardy
By Mark Wadland
In the Dec. 1 edition of The Chicago Tribune, an article stated that the Supreme Court would consider whether to uphold a conviction against a man, Anthony Elonis, from Pennsylvania, who spent three years in jail for threatening his wife on Facebook, who had recently left him.
According to the article, the justices are trying to decide whether it was enough for the prosecutors “to show Elonis’ intent to threaten or if it was enough for them to show that a reasonable person would have felt threatened.”
Regardless of whether Elonis’ conviction is upheld or overturned, there will be negative consequences.
If it is overturned, Elonis will likely be released from prison, but at the same time, the Court will have acknowledged that it was a mistake that Elonis was imprisoned Elonis made a mistake and ruined three years of his life.
On the other hand, if his conviction is upheld, then a major blow will be dealt to the first amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech. Although Elonis was convicted of violating a federal law prohibiting people from sending threatening messages to others, according to the article, I think the U.S. Constitution ought to take precedence over that law.
People make mistakes every day, and although this mistake cost Elonis three years he can never get back, I believe his conviction was unconstitutional. Regardless of how idiotic his messages may have been, no one should be thrown in prison for speaking his or her mind (in this case, in the form of rap lyrics).
The article states that a ruling is expected in June, meaning that six months from now, every Americans’ Krst amendment rights could be diminished.
The first amendment states no law shall be created restricting free speech – as great as the U.S. claims it is, it has a dire Raw if someone can be thrown in prison for years just for speaking his or her mind.
Elonis’ messages were likely borne out of anger, not a genuine hatred for the woman who left him. I do not agree with what he said, but I respect his right to say whatever he wishes – I think it’s one of the greatest aspects of this country. If the Supreme Court hinders our right to free speech, we won’t have much left.