Just a Facebook threat is not enough for convicting a person: US Supreme Court

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A death threat that was posted on Facebook will not be considered to convict the author of the post unless the intention to cause harm can be found has been held by US Supreme Court.  US Supreme Court had made this ruling after looking into the statutory grounds. This case was first heard on 1 December 2014 by a 9 member court, where a man who was upset when his wife had parted from him and had made such comments against her on Facebook and thus it landed him in jail.

Elonis was the person who was convicted as he had violated the federal law, as under the law, it is a crime to comment anything against any person which contains threat to injure the other person and transmitting it interstate. Anthony Elonis had posted on Facebook that he would want to kill his wife and wanted to see her body in a mess with blood and cuts on it and he had written this in a rap musical lyrics form. Court had to conclude on the threat that Elonis had posted on his wife’s Facebook whether it was just an expression or whether there was an intentions to cause harm to his wife.

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In the decision of the court, which was 7-2, the judges confirmed that it was not necessary to consider the first amendment issues. Elonis told in his post that he had written it as a therapeutic way to console him and that there was no intention to hurt any person and so the message that he had posted was not a real threat. For this act of his, Elonis was sentenced to 3 years jail and 3 years’ probation by the lower court.  Supreme Court threw out his conviction given by the lower court and Elonis case was sent back to lower court. High Court had further said that the prosecuting attorney had to prove that there was an exact intention by Elonis to cause harm to his wife. This case had come before the court a year before where the government had stated that Elonis statements expressed clearly his intention to cause harm.

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by Sushma Javare.