Re: [Fwd: FC: Scientology critic convicted after Usenet posts,picketing]

Date: Sun Apr 29 2001 - 09:26:44 MDT

As certain as I am that there's a been a grave injustice worked here, it is
EXTREMELY difficult to offer a meaningful legal opinion about the outcome and
possible future course of Keith's case without a detailed review of the
record. It appears from the material that's been forwarded here that a key
evidentiary ruling may have strongly prejudiced Keith's case. However,
successfully sustaining an appeal on an evidence point is one of the most
difficult pathways through the appellate process one can take, since it is
USUALLY necessary to show a firm causal connection between the excluded
evidence and the result. I presume this was a jury trial, which bodes ill
for the appeal: Strong presumptions in favor of fact-findings by juries make
successful evidentiary-based appeals quite rare.

Barbara's comments about the evils of "hate crime" laws are well-founded.
While intent (or "scienter", as old lawyers like me still call it) is
obviously crucial in criminal cases (providing the distinction between murder
and manslaughter, for instance), "hate crimes" go a step further, making a
distinction about intent based on the "group" nature or "group" membership of
the alleged victim or victims. As Barbara points out, such laws are
fundamentally counter to the liberal tradition of enlightened law, since they
move the locus of harm from individuals to groups and dilute the focus on
individual rights which is the bedrock of a free society.

Beyond this and on a technical constitutional point, Keith appears to have
engaged in nothing more than speech, which ought to be protected by the
Second Amendment. I also don't know whether California's "hate crime"
statutes have been subjected to federal constitutional scrutiny, but I hope
that if that pathway lies open for Keith he can attract the attention of the
ACLU or the Institute for Justice ( I would
hope that the latter especially would be willing to look at Keith's case, as
I support them with a modest regular donation. A listing of other public
interest law firms can be found at:

Perhaps Keith's best hope is to work to build a coalition of legal talent
among public interest law firms and sympathetic academics who would be
willing to take his cause forward through the appellate process. I just hope
they preserved error (the lawyers here will know what I mean :-()

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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