Justin Carter, the Texas teen who made a sarcastic remark on a Facebook page and went to jail for it, will appear in Comal County (Texas) District Court on Tuesday, July 16. In a July 3 article by Yahoo News, defense attorney Donald Flanary defends the young man saying
“He never intended to threaten anyone, he wasn’t serious.”
Flanary has taken up the case pro bono in an effort to release Justin, who has been beaten in jail several times since being arrested back in February.
There are several problems with how the arrest was conducted that may later be used in a lawsuit, should the family pursue the matter.
*Justin was arrested before the statement “I’m [expletive] in the head alright. I’ma shoot up a kindergarten/ And watch the blood of the innocent rain down/ And eat the beating heart of one of them” was confirmed to have come from his personal computer. Those suspected of child pornography have more rights before an arrest is made.
*Police did not look at the context in which the post was written. They would have seen derogatory remarks made about Justin before he fired back the remark that landed him in jail. The context could be a major factor in determining the comment, although in bad taste, wasn’t meant to be taken literally.
*Justin’s bail, set at $500,000, is up to five times higher than many charged with murder. Flanary will try to get that amount reduced at the July 16 hearing.
Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center at the Newseum in Washington and dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro stated in an interview with Yahoo News that
“There are safeguards that should lead to a critical analysis of provocative speech.”
Paulson believes the entire legal system has exploded over this incident.
Flanary believes a lot of the problems brought on with this case is the fear for any one agency to say Justin has done nothing wrong. For someone to say he was only kidding, and then if a shooting event later takes place because Justin is released from jail, would place the blame on whoever sided with the teen.
Many states enacted laws after the school shooting at Columbine in 1999, making it clear that even harmless threats should be taken seriously. Several school shootings are believed to have been avoided because classmates or teachers reported suspicious behavior.
But there’s also a thin line between doing what’s right to prevent a school shooting and taking a comment taken out of text at face value.
Justin’s mother is working hard to get her son released from jail. The online petition to free him had almost 73,000 signatures Thursday night. There are countless supporters also on his side. Some are his friends, but many are those who protest for First Amendment Rights.
The American public is growing tired of being monitored over everything said and done, both on the internet, as well as “Big Brother” tactics used to gain access by the government to what should be personal information.
Justin is facing two to ten years in prison, with a fine of up to $10,000. His father says he’s now in solitary confinement and has been beaten several times since his arrest. The America Civil Liberties Union is monitoring his case.
Readers, how do you feel about this case? Should Facebook be monitored as strictly as it’s being monitored these days?
Another case in point is the Hawthorne Police Department shooting of a family dog named Max, where Facebook members are threatening the department with bodily harm or death.
Is the government going to try and bring in every person on Facebook who doesn’t follow the rules of good language and good behavior?
It’s scary to think one simple remark made out of context, or even out of anger, can land a person in jail for an indefinite period. Our favorite social networking site isn’t as much fun as it used to be. Is it? Your comments are welcome.