ABC reports that Dylann Roof, who was convicted for murdering 9 people in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in June 2015, has asked for a new federal trial. Roof was sentenced to death. Roof’s argument is that federal prosecutors lacked jurisdiction to bring their case against him.
Represented by attorneys, they claim that the federal government failed to prove that Roof’s use of the internet, the highways, and a gun manufactured out of state, were sufficient links to allow religious obstruction charges. A similar argument was made in July 2016 as a part of Roof’s plea bargain that if the government took the death penalty off the table, that he would plea guilty as charged. The court denied Roof’s motion.
A federal grand jury found that Roof violated subsections of federal law 18 U.S.C. 247 in that he intentionally obstructed, by force, the enjoyment of free exercise of religious beliefs. That section requires that the circumstances takes place in or affects interstate or foreign commerce.
Roof is currently in custody in the Charleston County jail awaiting trial in state court.
Last year, this case caught much attention and I was informed by some victims of cyberharassment that law enforcement used the case decision as an excuse to not pursue charges for online threats. Some internet trolls were happy with the U.S. Supreme Court decision, assuming it addressed free speech. The decision did not. Rather, it addressed the reasonable person standard in the jury’s instructions, finding that the standard should have been reckless disregard.
“A U.S. appeals court has reinstated the conviction of a Freemansburg man who made threatening comments against his estranged wife and others on Facebook but defended them on free speech grounds as rap lyrics.”
“The ruling comes after the U.S. Supreme Court said the jury in the 2011 trial of Anthony Elonis was erroneously instructed and should have weighed Elonis’ intent in making the posts and not just their content.”
“The high court said the fact that people who read the posts found them threatening wasn’t enough to support his conviction, and to get a guilty verdict, prosecutors had to prove that the messages were intended as threats.”
“But on Friday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said no jury could doubt Elonis knew the lyrics —which included talk of killing his estranged wife, shooting up a school and cutting an FBI agent’s throat — would intimidate his targets, despite appearing under an “entertainment only” disclaimer.”
“Based on our review of the record, we conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Elonis would have been convicted if the jury had been properly instructed. We therefore hold that the error was harmless, and uphold his conviction,” the court’s ruling said.”
Hat tip to Shyloh for tweeting this news.
“It was one of the worst things that ever happened to me outside of my eye accident when I lost my eyesight because I always thought the United States was a great place and police didn’t act like this.” Philip White
In 2012, Philip White, then 77-years old, was at the Greyhound station trying to take a bus back home to Eagle. He was told that the bus was sold out, so he asked to speak to a manager. Philip is blind and carries a cane. After Philip spoke with a manager, the manager said it was okay for him to wait for the next bus. However, a security guard told Philip that he was trespassing and would be arrested. Philip called the police.
“I decided to call the police to see if maybe I was breaking the law somehow,” White explained to Denver7 chief investigative reporter Tony Kovaleski. “[The dispatcher] said the only thing we can do really is we could send a policeman over to observe your discussion with the manager. So I thought that was a good idea.”
When an officer arrived, Philip asked to touch his badge to ensure that it was the police, but the officer refused. The security guard and officer tried slamming Philip to the hard floor. Philip’s head was bashed on a counter.
Surveillance video captured what happened. Read the rest of this entry
In summary, on August 7, 2014, Ted Wafer was found guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter, and unlawful use of a weapon in the killing of 19-year old Renisha McBride. For more background information, please see our archives of posts about the case and trial.
Wafer is serving his sentence in the Alger Correctional Facility in Munising in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He was sentenced to 15-30 years in prison for the murder count and 7-15 years for the manslaughter charge. He also received a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence on a felony firearm charge.
At his sentence hearing, Wafer’s attorney argued that he should only be sentenced to 10 years.
Detroit News reports that on April 6, 2016, a three-judge panel of the court ruled that Wayne County Circuit Judge Dana Hathaway erred in ruling she could not “go below the (sentencing) guidelines” when she sentenced Theodore Wafer in August 2014.
“Because the trial court’s compulsory adherence to the guidelines range was erroneous, in keeping with (case law) we remand for … proceedings,” according to the opinion by judges Cynthia Stephens, Joel Hoekstra and Deborah Servitto.
The court upheld Wafer’s conviction. Read the rest of this entry
The case of Howard Morgan
Imagine being put on trial for four counts of attempted murder, four counts of aggravated battery with a firearm against a police officer, and two counts of discharging a firearm.
The jury acquits you of the two counts of firing a firearm and four counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. Logically, you would think that a finding of not guilty would also be entered on the charges of attempted murder, but the jury deadlocks on those charges.
According to your defense attorneys, ten jurors considered you not guilty of attempted murder, and two others would not agree. The judge declares a mistrial.
Then imagine being put on trial again and the court orders that the second jury cannot know that the first jury acquitted you on the charges of discharging a firearm and aggravated battery. The second jury enters a conviction for attempted murder, aggravated battery, and discharging a firearm. You are sentenced to 100 years in total, but since one sentence is 40 years, the judge orders that your sentences run concurrent meaning, you will serve 40 years in prison. At the age of 61, does it really make much difference?
Protesters and your family say that the second trial violated double jeopardy.
Okay, that started at what is now the present. Let’s go to the beginning. Read the rest of this entry