Tag Archives: Trending

Facebook Posts can Land You in Jail

One does not simply post on Facebook

Posting whatever you want on Facebook might not be a good idea, as in the case of Ebony Dickens of East Point Georgia.

Based on an April 30, 2015 report on CNN, Ebony Dickens, of East Point, Georgia, posted threats to the police under the name, Tiffany Milan, on social media.  According to CNN, she posted this on Facebook, “I thought about shooting every white cop I see in the head until I’m either caught by the police or killed by them. Ha!!!! I think I can pull it off. Might kill at least 15 tomorrow, I’m plotting now.”

Soon after Ms. Dickens posted the threats, she deleted her Tiffany Milan Facebook account.  She erased all her threatening posts.  But that didn’t matter.  Erasing the threats didn’t help.  She already published them to others.  By virtue of her Facebook posts, Ms. Dickens got arrested.  She was arrested not only by the local authorities, but by homeland security.  Apparently, Ms. Dickens “allegedly” violated local law, but State and Federal law.  I say, “allegedly” because Ms. Dickens case is still pending.  Even so, it’s important to look at US free speech law and why, oftentimes, comments made on Facebook aren’t protected speech.

Based on this story, making Facebook posts about shooting the cops using a fake name may not be a good idea. Protected and lawful speech, of any kind, does not involve making true threats, using fighting words to incite violence and cyber-bullying.  Ranting on Facebook, or anywhere, may not always be a good idea, no matter appealing it may seem to be for some.  First Amendment Freedom of Speech law is a not a get-out-of-jail free card for offenses like these.  Freedom of Speech rights do not make one immune from arrest and jail. People can also file civil suits against others for making certain kinds of speech.

Under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, people can get arrested for speech involving obscenity, child pornography, misleading commercial speech, fighting words, cyber bullying and true threats. For example, free speech does not include (for no good reason) yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.  This is a classic example.  People get arrested and end up in jail for telling others, “I’m going to kill you.” Also, making up stories about others is not always harmless. For example, telling someone your friend has “Ebola,” or somethings similar, when in fact they do not, can get a person in a lot of legal trouble.

In the business world, free speech does not include making unsupported claims.  When a commercial producer claims their product “builds strong bodies 12 ways,” or wants to show that their product is healthy, the producer and all the stakeholders better support this sort of claim with strong evidence.  Commercial claims may be unprotected speech, provided there is no proof behind such claims.

Cartoons and political satire, like the Charlie Hebdo cartoon depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed, is an example of a form of US free speech. Under US law, cartoonists and artists may publish political cartoons and politically charged satire.  This is considered protected free speech. Under the laws of other countries, such cartoonist speech is not always protected. Whether or not political cartoons are always wise or prudent to publish remains controversial. Even so, there is no complete list of US constitutional freedom of speech examples that explain what does or does not constitute freedom of speech.

Concerning freedom of speech and the laws of free speech, each situation and every fact pattern is not the same.  Each person and each legal case is different.  This is why a professional legal analysis of every situation is important. This type of case-by-case basis legal examination is what legal professionals call, “fact-intensive” legal analysis.  Fact intensive legal analysis is what lawyers and judges are trained to do.  This is why it’s always important to consult your lawyer and be sure to ask them any legal questions regarding freedom of speech guarantees, the US Constitution or any law, before you act or draw conclusions about legal matters.

Under First Amendment free speech, free speech does not include true threats.  However, treats made in humor or funny stories, like exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally, tends to be protected speech in certain circumstances.  For example, Saturday Night Live, (“SNL”), a comedy show shown on TV on Saturday night, has made sketches mocking the blind and making racist jokes about people who go to Starbucks, (things like this).  SNL made a fake video defaming Thailand. These were shocking and offensive to a lot of folks. SNL poked fun at real people. Comedians verbalized threats and violence.

Humor performed by professional comedians or published by professional cartoonists is considered protected speech. Jokes, cartoons, sketches and speech, shared by professional comedians and artists is part of what they do for good reasons. Professional comedians, cartoonists, artists and the like, create artistic and scientific works that benefit the public.  Often, artistic work involves sarcastic comedy, political satire, parody and shocking artistic work that may involve certain forms of pornography. Legality of the free speech and the intent of that speech (which is one of many legal elements that must be shown) is quite often determined by the virtue of one’s profession.

The intent of an artist, by virtue of the artistic profession, is to add artistic value to most people and the general public, whether or not this is shocking to a few individuals.  The intent of a comedian, by virtue of the comedic profession, is to entertain and invoke thought, discussion and to inject humor or satire into a skit or cartoon, not to cause specific harm to others.  Many times, these forms of free speech are political in nature.  Political figures and political issues are permissible targets of free speech.  Not everyone or everything fits into this category. Every case is different.

Even on occasion, even comedians and artists get into legal trouble.  For example, if an artist took an artistic work too far and people filed legal cases against them, this is perfectly legal if the claim is not frivolous.  The Court will determine a frivolous case and have it dismissed, when necessary.  Every case must be examined by the facts and the nature of the speech published, be it in writing, on any form of medium or orally (by word of mouth).  Every case must look at the platform of delivery, the person publishing the speech and, in some cases, who the speech was intended for or the intended message and audience.

As you may have guessed, there is a lot look at when it comes to Free Speech rights and Constitutional laws regarding freedom of speech.  Examples are only a snapshot.  I can only give you a general snapshot of this topic.  But remember, US First Amendment free speech is never a get-out-of-jail-free ticket that gives a person unconditional immunity from arrest, jail or a civil lawsuit.  The story of Ebony Dickens is a perfect example.  Posting threats to the cops on Facebook or anywhere, is one reason why quite often posting things on Facebook can land a person in court or worse, jail.

by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., May 19, 2015

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Her law practice is focused on consumer finance and bankruptcy.  However, Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work.  On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.  To find out more visit, www.attorneykelly.squarespace.com or http://www.attorneykelly.wordpress.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Arrest, Civil, Criminal, First Amendment, Free Speech, Law, Legal, Police, Trending

Hidden Truth, Legal Rights for Chimps

Photo Credit: Reuters

Photo Credit: Reuters

The hidden truth about legal rights for Hercules and Leo, the NY Chimpanzees making history 

There is great speculation that two Chimpanzees from Long Island NY have been given special human legal rights by a Supreme Court Justice.  The Court issued a Habeas Corpus.  Does this now mean that the chimps are legal persons?  Are the chimps legally obligated to comply with the court order?  There’s a hidden secret, a secret truth, which will tell us the answer about how human legal rights can work for chimpanzees, under the law. The secret is hidden in the law of the Habeas and by the nature of how the Court works.

This case involves an animal rights type of legal action involving the question of protection for two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo.  Animal rights activists, the Nonhuman Rights Project, are the plaintiffs.  Stony Brook University, Long Island NY and the president of Stony Brook University, Samuel M. Stanley Jr., MD, are the named defendants.  The defendants are the legal owners of the chimps and are holding them in captivity, the crux of the legal issue for the animal rights activist plaintiffs.

On April 20, 2015, a Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Habeas”) was issued by the Supreme Court Justice in this case, Barbara Jaffee.  The legal question involves why the University should be legally permitted to hold in captivity, the chimpanzees Hercules and Leo.  The Habeas was intended to serve justice in this matter.

A Writ of Habeas Corpus is a court order, mandating or commanding that the custodian of a prisoner (person/human) must release the prisoner and bring them up into court and show cause why the prisoner should remain in lawful imprisonment. In Blacks Law Dictionary and other Law Dictionaries, Habeas Corpus is a Latin legal term of art meaning, “bring up the body.”

In the case of Hercules and Leo, the Habeas compels their captor, Stony Brook University, not the chimps, to release the chimps from captivity.  It allegedly hails the chimps, the “alleged” prisoners to bring them into Court (as a practical matter, they are to be released from “bondage”, or captivity).   The Habeas also compels the defendants to show cause (give a good reason) why they should continue to hold Leo and Hercules in captivity.  This is what the Habeas means, in the context of this trial.

The Habeas gives the defendants a choice.  Bring up the prisoners, by releasing them from bondage, or show the court why the chimps should continue to be legally held. This is what must be done.  The Habeas is a tool, typically used in criminal trials when prisoners need to be hailed into court for things like arraignment, suppression hearings and other hearings and at trial.

In order to understand whether or not the Habeas imparts some special human right upon chimps, we must examine the intent of Justice Jaffee, the nature of the Habeas and a few other things, discussed by the following three points.

Point #1:  If animals were given human legal rights, consider the practical and legal impact upon the US court system.

If one small human right was given to any animal, like a train with many cars, others will follow.  Giving animals a Habaes is one thing, but giving them legal rights to be treated like prisoners doesn’t mean giving them the right to vote the right to a fair trial or other things reserved for humans.  There’s the legal right to a jury of one’s peers to face your accusor, and on and on and on.  These issues are not likely a Pandora’s box of legal and practice problems Justice Jaffee intended to open.

It’s a dangerous slippery slope.  Would a jury box full of chimpanzees be something Justice Jaffee had in mind? What would be the cost?  Are we to re-invent the ballot box, making it suitable for chimpanzee fingers and toes? How would a fish take the witness stand?  Then there is the matter of a fair and impartial court interpreter. Imagine, a chimpanzee court interpreter, wearing pants – not so easy to unthink.

Indulge your imagination.  Should dolphins be given the right to a fair trial, simply because they are intelligent and highly social creatures?  Where would an Elephant sit in the jury box?  You got it.  An elephant would sit anywhere he wants!  All kidding aside, if animals were given legal rights, our court system and legal system would be a mess.  Government would become chaotic and obsolete. Furthermore, giving animals human legal rights is nothing short of tyranny for animals.

Point #2:  If animals were given human legal rights, the intent of lawmakers would be abolished.  

Human rights, basic and essential legal rights, are provided for humans by humans.  The courts were made by humans for humans. Animals did not create our legal system.  The legislative intent of our court systems, our law, is to keep order and maintain justice for humans, not animals.  Our legal system was made to provide justice, not chaos.  Chaos is quite the opposite of justice.

The human interpretation and concept of courtroom is important. Chimpanzees and other animals stand a good chance of not behaving like humans in court.  Chimps, like most animals, tend to have great difficulty controlling their urges and behavior.  Seldom do animals conduct themselves like humans. Seldom do animals behave like humans would expect or require, in a courtroom situation, to maintain order.  Animals are unpredictable, to varying degrees.  Lack or order is chaotic.  Humans need courtroom decorum and order, to perfect justice. Animals, maybe not so much.

Chimpanzees, if they were forced to comply with our court system, could not do so without severe and potentially bazaar legal outcomes. For example, in the matter of Travis the Chimp from Connecticut, a 200 lb. Chimpanzee decided to brutally rip the face and hands off of Charla Nash, his owner’s friend. If Travis the Chimp were still alive, should Travis have been given a jury of his peers? Would justice be served if  Travis was sentenced to death or life in prison? Would Travis be eligible for parole or appeal after appeal? Bringing chimps to court is not likely beneficial nor the intent of our legislatures. Giving chimps legal rights was not the likely intent of Justice Jaffee.

Furthermore, animals do not need humans. Animals govern themselves, however cruel we may think nature can be. Animals have basic ways of establishing their own social order. In the context science, animal social order is amazing. Groups of primates great each other in a certain way to invoke peace. Dolphins swim together in schools to catch fish. Gorillas groom each other to stay healthy and show acceptance.

Intelligent creatures like dolphins, primates and gorillas do quite well, without human intervention. This is essentially why Justice Jaffee probably does not intend to interfere with the social order of primates. In essence, justice is served best by allowing creatures to just be themselves.  Humans have done enough damage to animals.  As a matter of justice, humans have no business giving human legal rights to chimps.  Human intervention is one reason why it is said that Travis the Chimp did what he did and a big reason why why the law suit regarding Leo and Hercules is underway.

Furthermore, history has shown that it’s not always a good idea to tamper with the social order of other societies, unlike ours. This holds true for people as well as animals. Animals do a good job of establishing their own social order.

In the context of our human government, humans are expected to care for animals, that’s pretty much it. Humans have no obligation to create social conditions where animals are expected to conform to human behaviors, duties and expectations. Placing animals outside of their own animal-based social order places animals at risk. When humans take chimps outside of their own social order, law suits ensue, and animal rights activists get involved. Animal rights activists contend that humans have destroyed the chimps Hercules and Leo and they deserve a better life, outside of confinement.

But in the context of human government, laws were not intended to place animals on the same legal playing ground as humans.  This is not humane or sound.  Cruelty toward animals not only involves captivity but capacity.  Animals, like children, for varying reasons lack legal capacity.  Indeed, maintaining the intent of the law, designed by humans for humans, is inline with the intent of Justice Jaffee.

Point #3:  If animals were given human legal rights, the NY Habeas would not serve justice or invoke a correct result.  

The essential “secret” why Justice Jaffee ordered the Habeas for Hercules and Leo is in the way she used the Habeas.  She used the Habeas like a tool, a legal instrument.  This tool, if you will, insures that justice will be served.  Justice Jaffee used the Habeas to command the release of the chimps, probably into an animal sanctuary.  Because of the Habeas, unless the Defendants prove there is any legal and permissible exception to the release, Leo and Hercules will remain free in a safe place. The Chimps will remain precisely where Justice Jaffee believes they should be, for now.  She used the Habeas as a tool to invoke justice and compel a correct result.  The Habeas is a very powerful legal instrument, indeed.

Even so, granting the Habeas seems a little unorthodox, especially in a matter involving chimpanzees.  Justice Jaffee is quite clever.  If her intent was to use the Habeas to give the chimps some special human legal right.  If she did, the result would be unjust. On the contrary, Justice Jaffee used a legal tool within her power to compel the defendants do the right thing. Justice Jaffee used the Habeas as a tool to insure that justice is served.  In this way, the Habeas was used like an instrument, a tool to ferret out truth and compel legal order.

It’s reasonable to assume that Hercules and Leo will be in a better place, like an animal sanctuary.  The Chimps probably will not be hailed into court. They won’t be asked to testify. Justice is served by the Habeas, nothing more.  If the Chimps are not released, the defendants go directly to jail, do-not-pass-Go, end of story.

This is the other reason why Justice Jaffee used the Habeas.  The Habeas switched the burden of proof off the plaintiff’s shoulders and onto the defendants.  Now, the defendants must now show the court why it is legal for Leo and Hercules to be held in captivity by the University.  If Justice Jaffee didn’t use the Habeas, the plaintiffs bear this burden.  Legal tools, like a Habeas, are used all the time to create an environment to do what must be done.

Obviously, Justice Jaffee wanted to hear Stony Brook’s side of the story first and have the chimps released, for a time. The real issue is not whether Hercules and Leo have been given a legal right, just like humans.  Animal rights laws protect animals from cruel treatment by humans. This is how it is.  This is how the law works. The real issue has to do with the truth and the spin some would place on this subject.

The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) and Science Magazine and others want people to think chimpanzees have been given legal rights reserved for humans.  For readers, this sort of story is delightfully strange.  It is an unusual and newsworthy story about animals.  Unfortunately, it’s not about the truth. Statements like, for the “first time in world history,” a judge has recognized two chimpanzees being used for research purposes as “legal persons” and granted them a Writ of Habeas Corpus, are simply untrue. Statements like these put a spin on court case news. It’s a matter of news hype. News hype is intended to draw attention and stir our emotions.  News hype also invokes discussions and raises eyebrows. Discussions are not all that bad.  In fact, news is good.

So now you know the big secret. The truth is out.  It’s not about Chimps being given human legal rights. We aren’t reinventing our entire legal system. It’s not all that sensational. The secret is about the truth and how a New York Supreme Court Judge chose to use a legal instrument, the Habeas. The truth is found by the nature of the Habeas.  The truth lies in how the Habeas was used. The Habeas hopefully, will produce a fair and just result for everyone. This is truth.

Truth is good.  Rooting out the truth is what courts are all about.  Law is about truth. Law is what I do. Visit the about page of my website to find out more, www.attorneykelly.squarespace.com/about/ 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Her law practice is focused on consumer finance and bankruptcy.  However, Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work.  On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.  To find out more visit, www.attorneykelly.squarespace.com or http://www.attorneykelly.wordpress.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Law, Legal, Legal Rights, Trending