Court: Call to Shoot Obama Is Free Speech

Court clears Walter Bagdasarian for exhorting people to 'shoot the [racial slur]'
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2011 11:34 AM CDT
President Barack Obama prepares to leave after discussing the continuing budget talks, Tuesday, July 19, 2011.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(Newser) – The First Amendment protects even racists calling for the president’s assassination, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today, overturning the conviction of Walter Bagdasarian. Bagdasarian was convicted of threatening to kill a presidential candidate two weeks ahead of the 2008 election for an online rant in which he called for people to “shoot the n*****,” and predicted that Obama would “have a 50 cal in his head soon,” the LA Times reports.

But in a 2-1 decision, the court said that though Bagdasarian’s comments were “repugnant,” they did not amount to an “explicit or implicit threat,” and that the law “does not criminalize predictions or exhortations to others to injure or kill the president.” But a law professor tells the San Francisco Chronicle that the Supreme Court may step in on this one. “This is a close case,” he said. “The line between punishable threats and … protected advocacy of violence, is not completely clear.”

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