A Virginia man hopes to convince the state’s Supreme Court that hanging a life-sized black doll on his front yard by a noose to intimidate black people is free speech.
Jack Turner of Rocky Mount, Virginia, is in court after being convicted of breaking a Virginia state law that prohibits hanging a noose “in a manner having a direct tendency to place another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of death or bodily injury,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The law, which was passed in 2009, was violated by Turner in 2015 when he hung an effigy of a black man from a tree on his front lawn in retaliation to a conflict with his black neighbor, John Mitchell. Turner also hung a Confederate flag in a window facing Mitchell’s home after the noose and doll were confiscated, as well as displayed a sign with he following message on his lawn during his trial and sentencing: “Black ni**ers lives don’t matter. Got rope?”
“If he can hang a noose, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I fear for my family’s safety,” Mitchell said at the time of the trial. “Every morning, I walk out my door. Is somebody going to shoot me in the back?”
However, Holland Perdue, Turner’s lawyer, has defended his actions, claiming his free speech rights were violated. Because the noose and the doll were hung on his private property and not on public property, Perdue argued Turner is protected by the First Amendment.
Still, Turner’s case was upheld by Judge Robert Humphreys.
“The evidence was sufficient to support the circuit court’s conclusion that the offense occurred in a public place,” Humphreys wrote, adding that Turner’s act violated the law because “Turner displayed a noose and dummy in a place and manner to communicate threats to others with the intent to place members of the public in fear of violence and bodily harm,” according to The Roanoke Times.
Although Humphreys noted that “the First Amendment protects Turner’s right to be a racist and even to convey his racist beliefs to others,” he also said that a “constitutional limit to that allowance has been reached when an idea becomes a threat that causes reasonable people to fear leaving their homes.”
Turner is the first person in Virginia to be convicted under the new noose law, which carries up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch
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