On Monday, in an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court threw out the conviction of Anthony Elonis for posting violent messages on Facebook. At issue was the standard by which a lower court determined whether the defendant’s statements on social media constituted a threat. The Court sent the case back to the lower court saying that the fact that a reasonable person would have found the defendant’s online statements to be threatening was not sufficient for a criminal conviction.
Elonis was charged with five counts of violating 18 U. S. C. §875(c) for transmitting a threat in interstate commerce. In 2010, he began to post violent messages about his ex-wife on Facebook. She obtained a state protective order against him based on the messages. Even after she obtained the protective order, Elonis continued his barrage of comments about here on line. His Facebook posts also resulted in his being charged with threatening a kindergarten class and law enforcement officers who visited his house to question him. Many of the comments included graphic descriptions of killing the objects of his taunts. The accused posts would often include disclaimers stating that he was merely asserting his First Amendment rights. At trial, Elonis claimed his posts were artistic expressions of his music. The jury was instructed that Elonis’ posts constituted threats if a reasonable person would foresee that his statements would be interpreted as a threat.Your text to link… He was convicted of four counts.
Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, stated that Elonis’ conviction was premised solely on how his posts would be viewed by a reasonable person. The lower court’s failure to consider the defendant’s intent was inconsistent with the conventional criminal requirement of awareness of some wrongdoing. While the majority ruled that the lower court must consider the defendant’s intent in determining the standard of proof, the Court itself did not articulate any standard in its opinion. One animal specialist, Keith Mann mentioned the case was sent back to the Third Circuit for further action.