June 23, 2020
Today’s blog post is brought to you by the First Amendment absolutist in me.
Kansas law makes it a crime to threaten to “[c]ommit violence . . . in reckless disregard of the risk of causing . . . fear.” Two Kansans ran afoul of this statute.
Timothy Boettger was convicted for telling the son of a police detective that he “‘was going to end up finding [his] dad in a ditch.’” Ryan Johnson was separately convicted for telling his mother that he “‘wish[ed] [she] would die,’” that he would “‘help [her] get there,’” and that he was “‘going to f***ing kill [her] a***.’”
Both Boettger and Johnson were convicted at trial, but the Kansas Supreme Court reversed both convictions, holding that the threats were protected speech under the First Amendment.
The prosecutors appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court but, yesterday, the Court declined the opportunity to consider the question.
Good ol’ Clarence Thomas dissented, ostensibly because he felt that the Court should resolve what he viewed as a split among lower courts on the matter but, I suspect, more likely because he is itching for the opportunity to start to erode the 1st Amendment as he and the Court have done to the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments.
Have I mentioned that the single most important issue every Presidential election is judicial appointments?