The Supreme Court will review the case of a man convicted of making threats, based on the ultra-violent rap lyrics and declarations he posted on Facebook, McClatchy Newspapers reports. What Anthony Elonis posted was undeniably graphic; gruesome, even. The legal question is whether conviction on the charge of of threatening another person requires proof of the defendant's subjective intent to threaten, or whether it is enough to show that a “reasonable person” would regard the statement as threatening.
Elonis worked at an amusement park in Allentown, Pa., when his life took a turn for the worse in 2010. After his wife left him, Elonis posted that his son “should dress up as matricide for Halloween,” adding, “I don't know what his costume would entail though. Maybe [petitioner's wife's] head on a stick?” At another point, he posted that “if worse comes to worse, I've got enough explosives to take care of the state police and the sheriff's department.” A jury convicted him of multiple counts of making threats. In today's Internet environment, Elonis argues, the best way to protect free speech is to judge the threatening content of words based on the speaker's intent, rather than a black-and-white reading of the words. Elonis served his sentence and was released in February.