Inmates, Outrage, and Free Speech

It's understandable that Laci Peterson's mother is "outraged" that Scott Peterson posted his protestation of innocence on his family's website (his own website is relatively empty). She's nonetheless misguided in suggesting that "it isn't right that [inmates] should have access to the Internet, either direct access or through somebody else."

Her view that "being on death row is supposed to eliminate an inmate's privileges" is also understandable, but free speech is a right, not a privilege. Inmates lose some rights, but not all of them, by virtue of being incarcertated.

Free speech isn't free if people like Laci Peterson's mother can act as censors of words they find offensive. Whether or not Scott Peterson is guilty, there's no doubt that countless innocent inmates are serving time. If they don't bring their stories to the public's attention, who will? They often depend upon sympathetic journalists or columnists to call attention to their plight. Should they be barred from talking to reporters? Should they be prohibited from exposing abuses in the prison system that prison administrations will otherwise suppress? What's so different about eliminating the middleman and speaking to the public directly via the internet?

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    I don't blame her... (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 11:51:18 AM EST
    for being outraged...but outrage isn't a reason to curtail unalienable rights.

    Free speech is for everybody...rich or poor, free or incarcerated, popular or unpopular, offensive or bland.

    I honestly.... (none / 0) (#34)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 03:45:50 PM EST
    don't see the harm....and can see potential benefits for the population at large.

    Mr. Peterson has a right to freedom of expression (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by AX10 on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 05:27:54 PM EST
    including this.  Lacy's mother is wrong in this case.

    Well (none / 0) (#1)
    by Steve M on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 11:47:14 AM EST
    You're right in theory, but I hardly expect the mother of a murder victim to see it that way.  I'd be upset at the guy too.

    Perhaps she would feel a little better about it if she understood that Scott Peterson's protestations of innocence are likely to reflect negatively on him when his inevitable request for executive clemency comes around.  When I worked for the state parole board, the prisoner's willingness to express remorse was always an important factor - which kinda sucks, by the way, if you actually happen to be innocent!

    I just not sure I (none / 0) (#3)
    by mikeyleigh on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:13:32 PM EST
    don't agree with Laci's mother on this issue.  It's not exactly, to my way of thinking a censorship issue.  Nobody would deny that being held as a convicted murderer short-circuits a great many of Peterson's rights as a citizen:  right to assembly, right to own firearms, etc.  Why shouldn't his right to spout off his dipstick opinions also not be curtailed as well?  Once some of his rights as a citizen have been denied, why not others.  This isn't like denying him his right to petition, right to due process, and so own.  I also think you're being naive about the internet. Far too many people believe a statement on the internet gives it a measure of veracity, a veracity it doesn't always deserve.

    And some people believe... (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:19:13 PM EST
    George W. is a Texan...point being you can't help that some knuckleheads believe everything they read on the internet.

    I think we stand to lose a lot more than we can gain by restricting the free speech of the incarcerated.  Some of the greatest works of literature have been written behind bars...maybe the future will bring some of the best blogging from behind bars.


    Who decides ... (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by TChris on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:41:02 PM EST
    whether his opinions are "dipstick"? You?  Laci's mother?  What if he actually is innocent?  (The evidence against him was far from compelling, if you review the linked TL posts.)  Shouldn't he have the right to proclaim his unjust incarceration to the world?  Shouldn't inmates who are beaten by guards have a right to tell the world what is happening inside prison walls?

    That some people will believe him and others won't is true of nearly all expressions of thoughts and ideas.  In the United States, we trust the marketplace of ideas to eventually sort out truth from fiction.  The remedy for disliked speech is more speech, not censorship.  Laci's mother is availing herself of that remedy by contributing to the marketplace of ideas.  She's expressing her own views on Larry King, to a much larger audience than Scott Peterson will ever reach.

    The evidence was very compelling (none / 0) (#10)
    by myiq2xu on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:44:58 PM EST
    Scott Peterson is guilty guilty guilty

    Absolutely (none / 0) (#28)
    by shoephone on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 02:47:28 PM EST
    He is guilty as he!l.

    Not really (none / 0) (#42)
    by dianem on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 04:09:26 PM EST
     I wasn't a talk left reader at that time, but it was an interesting case and I followed it quite a bit. The evidence against him was weak, at best. The conviction seemed to be made on very weak circumstantial evidence combined with that fact that he didn't show the kind of emotions that people expected to see in a grieving husband and because he had not been faithful to his wife. But some people don't show their emotions in public. There was never anything connecting him directly to the crime, which is a bit surprising, given the number of ways they have of connecting people to crimes, nowadays.

    He was a jerk, without doubt, but this is not a very good case for the death penalty, and he should have his shot to declare his innocence. I think that imposing a death sentence based on circumstantial evidence is a very bad idea, and I hope he can somehow gain enough sympathy to get it overturned. It's not likely, anyway. The guy called his girlfriend while he was supposed to be helping search for his wife. I don't think the public will soon be forgiving him.


    Well (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by Steve M on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 04:14:04 PM EST
    The case was about more than just failure to show appropriate emotions.  The evidence included a number of specific, concrete actions he took shortly after his wife's disappearance that could only be explained if he knew she wasn't coming home.

    I agree with you that the death penalty and circumstantial evidence really don't belong together, even if the circumstantial evidence seems quite strong in the eyes of some.


    There were some incriminating facts (none / 0) (#45)
    by myiq2xu on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 04:35:29 PM EST
    He got his haircut by Laci's sister the night before Laci disappeared.  Her sister described what Laci was wearing that night.

    Scott said she was home and awake when he left the next morning, but the clothes she wore the night before were not found in the house.  

    The had a housekeeper who told police she was there a couple days earlier.  She said she vacumned but didn't empty the vacumn bag.  There was a clean bag in the vacumn when police searched the house, and no dirty bag was found in the garbage.


    So, somebody killed her (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by dianem on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 04:50:56 PM EST
    That's not evidence that he killed her. He could have been sound asleep and woke up to find her body. Knowing he was having an affair, and he would be a prime suspect, he got rid of the body. Heck, she could have died naturally and he panicked. I'm not saying this is what happened, just that there are other explanations. The evidence was totally like that - everything could be explained away. That's a circumstantial case, and I don't believe in the death penalty for circumstantial cases.

    I didn't say (none / 0) (#47)
    by mikeyleigh on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 05:25:04 PM EST
    he shouldn't have a right to present a point of view.  But the internet is not the best place to do so.  How did the convicted get their viewpoints out before Al Gore invented the internet?  By print interviews, then later on film.  The internet is too big a tool for the gullible.  Your point that talkleft talking points demonstrate that maybe, just maybe, Peterson isn't guilty is a great example.  Somebody reads those posts, then reads whatever Peterson thinks best serves his interests and voila, a convert to the "Leave Scott Alone" choir is born.  And on what basis?  Not the evidence at that trial, but rather what's being written on the internet.

    Ah, but MSM too big a tool for the gullible..... (none / 0) (#55)
    by Rojas on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 08:37:18 AM EST
    24/7 ill informed, shock jocks spewing propaganda whispered from anonymous sources. The invitation to the dance in Iraq should be enough to blunt the pointy heads of the people who believe we are being well served by this medium.
    You really think they bother to read the trial transcripts before they jackhammer out thier spew? That has got to be the joke of the century.

    I suspect... (none / 0) (#56)
    by TChris on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 09:24:31 AM EST
    that people who are strongly convinced of Peterson's guilt got their information about the case from Nancy Grace.

    Propaganda and the purchase of contempt.... (none / 0) (#57)
    by Rojas on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 11:11:02 AM EST
    Trial by media and extrajudical executions.
    After the Branch Davidian criminal trial one of the first thing the survivors did was scan the transcripts and upload them to the net. Few were interested.

    It was quite an education about government propaganda and the press. How lazy reporters will just fire off an allegation without even bothering to check consistency with prior sworn statements. Seems the penalty of perjury has quite an effect on the story our vaunted boys in blue will tell.
    It also reinforced the critical role of the Defense advocate in countering our popular excesses, probably the only true heroes of the whole sordid mess.


    I agree (none / 0) (#4)
    by cmugirl on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:17:49 PM EST
    He could stand in his cell and in the prison yard all day long and protest his innocence, but I don't see how curtailing his internet use abridges his First Amendment rights.  In my mind, he doesn't have a right to surf and post online.

    Free speech ... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by TChris on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:34:09 PM EST
    isn't terribly useful if the speaker is only permitted to talk to other inmates.  

    Well (none / 0) (#13)
    by Steve M on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:51:05 PM EST
    Even if he had zero Internet access, he'd be no worse off than all the prisoners from the 2+ centuries before the Internet was invented.  Was the right to free speech meaningless for all those years?

    In any event, it's not even clear that his Internet access is even at issue.  The page in question is apparently on a family website, and Laci's mom repeatedly refers to Scott communicating "through friends and family," as though it was simply a case of a family member posting "A Message From Scott" on the family website.

    Regardless, are you suggesting that the First Amendment creates an affirmative obligation for the federal government to provide prisoners with Internet access, so that they can broadcast the message of their choosing over the Web?  That strikes me as a very creative theory.


    I'm suggesting ... (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by TChris on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 01:46:40 PM EST
    as one of the linked articles suggests, that the government cannot prevent inmates from publishing their thoughts on the internet, provided they can find a way to do so (usually with the help of families and friends who have internet access).

    Speaking for me (as always).... (none / 0) (#17)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 01:05:26 PM EST
    I don't think the state should have to provide internet access...though I wholeheartedly support it.

    If the state does provide access, I strongly believe the state has no right to censor anything the inmate wants to post online.


    I don't blame her either (none / 0) (#5)
    by 1980Ford on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:18:09 PM EST
    But think she should be censored because her ranting speech is subversive to the Constitution.

    Laci Peterson was local news for me (none / 0) (#8)
    by myiq2xu on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:40:40 PM EST
    I support Scott's right to free speech.  I wish I could hear him scream when they put the needle in his arm.

    Have you (none / 0) (#12)
    by eric on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:48:58 PM EST
    talked to anyone about these wishes of yours?

    Just the voices in my head (none / 0) (#14)
    by myiq2xu on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:53:32 PM EST
    but they aren't much help.

    i don't blame her either, (none / 0) (#11)
    by cpinva on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:48:54 PM EST
    and if any actual proof had been presented at trial of scott peterson's guilt, i might even (but probably not) be inclined to go along with her.

    that said, mr. peterson's trial & conviction were political acts, carried out by police, prosecutors and citizens, outraged at his having had an affair, while his wife was pregnant.

    i must conclude this, based on the very simple fact that the ME wasn't even able to determine the cause of ms. peterson's death, and the prosecutor couldn't present even one piece of tangible evidence linking mr. peterson to it.

    i wonder how much ms. peterson's mother has made off of her daughter's death, in the way of speaking fees, books, etc.? just another in her "15 minutes" of fame.

    Well (none / 0) (#15)
    by Steve M on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:57:23 PM EST
    My sense is that his behavior following his wife's disappearance was considered far more appalling and incriminating than the mere fact he had an affair.

    Scott Peterson was convicted (none / 0) (#19)
    by myiq2xu on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 01:15:13 PM EST
    of a double homicide, not having an affair.

    He was given a change of venue to insure he got an impartial jury.


    Right. And Clinton was impeached... (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by dianem on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 04:11:51 PM EST
    ...for lying under oath. It had nothing to do with having sex with an intern in the oval office.

    Case in point. (none / 0) (#48)
    by mikeyleigh on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 05:27:33 PM EST
    Laci's mom's made money off of Laci's death, Scott Peterson proclaims his innocence via the internet and soon one of my wife's college freshmen will be proclaiming his innocence based on the authority of the internet.  That's a joke.

    Sharon Rocha (none / 0) (#16)
    by ladyken on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:58:16 PM EST
    "Free speech isn't free if people like Laci Peterson can act as censors of words they find offensive."

    Unfortunately Laci can no longer censor anything.
    Her mom Sharon Rocha is the upset one.
    No one caught this? Hmmm

    Thank you (none / 0) (#22)
    by TChris on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 01:49:41 PM EST
    for catching the error.  It has been corrected.

    I caught it but (none / 0) (#24)
    by eric on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 01:50:58 PM EST
    in a classic case of "bystander apathy" decided to let it go and let someone else catch it.

    Should Son of Sam laws be (none / 0) (#18)
    by oculus on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 01:11:59 PM EST
    updated to include publication via Internet where no profit is involved?

    no (none / 0) (#52)
    by Rojas on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 07:38:17 AM EST
    absolutly not

    He has no right to a computer... (none / 0) (#20)
    by bmc on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 01:33:04 PM EST
    But convicted felons lose the right to vote--which is free speech. They lose the right to publish books for profit--again, free speech. They lose the right to freely wander to another inmate's prison cell to discuss the latest news or political developments--free speech. They lose the right to appear on television without permission--a loss of free speech.

    In fact, many felons lose "rights." They lose their 4th amendment rights, and can have their cells freely invaded and searched and any of their possessions taken from them by prison guards or management.

    They lose their 2nd amendment rights to own a firearm, and they lose their rights of free association, because they are not allowed to associate with other felons upon release from prison. They lose their right to decide whether or not they must meet with probation officers too.

    They lose these rights because they have been convicted in a court of law and are felons.

    Face it. The man is a sociopath. He is on Death Row for the brutal, horrific, premeditated murder of his wife and unborn son.

    Having access to a computer is simply not a right, it is a privilege. He doesn't have the right to force the prison to provide him with every major newspaper every day. His access is limited by nature of his conviction.

    He can freely speak within the confines of the prison cell and the prison walls. That is now his only right of free speech.

    bold text notwithstanding (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by eric on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 01:49:43 PM EST
    nobody is arguing that a prisoner has a right to the internet.  Read up.

    Not true ... (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by TChris on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 01:52:21 PM EST
    that his First Amendment rights are extinguished by his incarceration.  If you click the "free speech" link in the post you will find that courts disagree with your interpretation of the Constitution.

    They are curtailed (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by myiq2xu on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 02:55:48 PM EST
    to the extent reasonably necessary for security and safety.

    But they are not forfeited.


    Prisoners.... (none / 0) (#26)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 01:53:42 PM EST
    are denied all kinds of rights...no doubt.  Too many if you ask me.

    The fact is the prison Peterson is in allows the use of the internet.  He's not posting for profit.  Let him say what he wants to say online...nobody is making you read it.

    I don't care what this guy has to say at the present time, so I won't read it.  But I'm sure there are countless prisoners out there with something to say that I want to hear...like this guy.


    kdog (none / 0) (#33)
    by jondee on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 03:43:59 PM EST
    Did you ever read You Cant Win by Jack Black? If not, you should check it out; it's right down your ally.

    No.... (none / 0) (#35)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 03:47:30 PM EST
    Jack Black the comedian?  I like his stuff.

    I'll check it out jondee...Thanks.


    Not the comedian.... (none / 0) (#37)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 03:52:40 PM EST
    Now I'm really interested...I googled it and it's supposedly William Burroughs favorite book.

    Many, many thanks....it's going to the front of the que...I'm rather embarassed to have never heard of it because it does appear to be right up my alley.  I might have to pick it up on the way home!


    No access to the internet (none / 0) (#61)
    by A Voice of Sanity on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 03:27:01 PM EST
    No access to the internet for prisoners is permitted at San Quentin - I believe that applies to all US prisons. Florida tried to punish prisoners when other people posted information for them - this amounts to extortion by torture. Hardly appropriate for the "Land of the Free" one would think- even in Florida.

    This eye for an eye (none / 0) (#27)
    by jazzcattg1 on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 01:54:18 PM EST
    Old Testament crap just has to stop-yes the evidence is there for Peterson's horrific actions and should be punished for it-but the posters on this site seem to think, like all good republicans, there is no mercy for all convicted, even after one's penance is served and discharged.  Draft dodgers like cheney and John Wayne and deserters such as gwb are forgiven without examination-due to their name recognition.  Mercy,per Jesus,in a civilized society is tempered by forgiveness - guess the US fails in that category too

    Give me a break (none / 0) (#29)
    by bocajeff on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 02:52:51 PM EST
    This would be really interesting if Sharon Rocha were, you know, in some position of power. She is just the mom and grandmother of murder victims and, I believe, allowed to any opinions she wants...They are just opinions.

    As Scott rots and then dies she can say and feel anything she wants

    Absolutely... (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 03:10:14 PM EST
    but when she starts advocating that prisoners should have no right to comment on Talkleft, for example, then she deserves criticism...with all due respect and sympathy for her suffering.

    To me, the fact that Scott Peterson is involved is irrelevant...the issue is free speech for prisoners, and I believe their right to speech should not be curtailed, no matter how heinous their crimes.


    Well (none / 0) (#36)
    by Steve M on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 03:50:26 PM EST
    She's not advocating that prisoners should have no right to comment on TalkLeft.

    She's the mother of a murder victim, upset that the man who murdered her daughter gets to go on the Internet and falsely proclaim his innocence to the world.

    I think it's a 100% natural reaction and hardly worthy of criticism.  When some politician proposes the "Laci Peterson's Mom No Internet For Prisoners Act," then I'll worry about the free speech implications.

    If she had said "I wish they would rip his balls off and feed them to him," would you feel obligated to point out that testicle removal and force-feeding are, in fact, Eighth Amendment violations?  It's the mother of a murder victim spouting off, there's nothing more to it.


    See Siegelman, Don (none / 0) (#38)
    by Ben Masel on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 03:54:02 PM EST
    Former Alabama Governor, now out on Appeal bond after 9 months.

    Actually, I just did.

    (Hallway at Netroots Nation.)
    "I'm sure you learned some things about how our Criminal Justice System works during your sojourn as a guest of the Federal Government." I get the impression he'll be a powerful voice on prison issues after winning his appeal.

    If she said.... (none / 0) (#39)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 03:56:55 PM EST
    "I wanna rip his nuts off"...I'd say I don't blame ya and leave it at that.

    But she said "it isn't right that [inmates] should have access to the Internet, either direct access or through somebody else."

    That's akin to saying "it isn't right that inmates have access to pean and paper to write a book".  It has to be criticized because it's so f*ckin' wrong....that's tyranny talk man.

    Free speech is a right (none / 0) (#40)
    by chopper on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 04:03:06 PM EST
    Most inmates are not animals.  They should be allowed use of the internet to communicate as long as they are doing nothing illegal.

    They should be allowed to let the public know what is going on in the prisons. If they don't, who will?

    Most inmates? (none / 0) (#41)
    by bocajeff on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 04:07:51 PM EST
    True. Most inmates (with apologies to Darwin) are not animals. However, others are. That isn't to mean they don't have rights, it just states that they are animals.

    Who are you calling an animal? (none / 0) (#60)
    by A Voice of Sanity on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 03:23:20 PM EST
    Most inmates ... are animals.

    Technically yes, but AFAIK no other example of an animal species ever got on a plane, flew 1,000 miles, and put a bomb under its "wife's" car to kill her. So calling them "animals" is an insult to the other animals.

    never proven, except (none / 0) (#50)
    by cpinva on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 05:38:12 PM EST
    to a jury eager for its 15 minutes of fame.

    She's the mother of a murder victim, upset that the man who murdered her daughter gets to go on the Internet and falsely proclaim his innocence to the world.

    the bald fact is, there has never been a conclusive determination of the actual cause of ms. peterson's death, ever. for all we know, she could have slipped and fallen in the water, drowning by accident.

    give me a incident, and enough "you did something "normal" people don't do's", and i'll have you convicted of the murder of someone on the other side of the world.

    he was convicted because people were pissed that he had an affair on his pretty, pregnant wife, period.

    Can't uphold the law, than can't have the right (none / 0) (#51)
    by fctchekr on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 06:06:49 PM EST
    The point is those convicted of breaking the law should not be given the same rights as those of us who uphold the law.

    But our system is demonstrably non perfect (none / 0) (#53)
    by Rojas on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 08:04:27 AM EST
    It seems foolish, self destructive even, to pretend it is.

    Delicate Balance .. (none / 0) (#58)
    by fctchekr on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 12:53:41 PM EST
    I can't imagine it could ever be self-destructive to reach for perfection...

    In order to create a more perfect union.... (none / 0) (#63)
    by Rojas on Sun Jul 20, 2008 at 07:37:35 AM EST
    Seems foolish to object to such a innocuous counterweight against wrongful convictions

    They aren't.... (none / 0) (#54)
    by kdog on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 08:15:23 AM EST
    they don't have the right to travel freely, to be free of unwarranted searches, or the right to vote.

    But they still have the right to free speech...and that includes posting online either themselves or by proxy.

    Certain rights are not given, they are natural rights...unalienable.  We are born with them.  Some rights are taken away upon conviction, but free speech isn't one of them, and rightly so.


    Dictionary Definition (none / 0) (#62)
    by fctchekr on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 05:05:08 PM EST
    They're man made, theoretical, and they can be changed...

    Peterson guilty? With no evidence? (none / 0) (#59)
    by A Voice of Sanity on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 02:58:16 PM EST
    Wow! So many so sure of his guilt. So few who have looked at the facts.

    Question 1: Why would Scott Peterson abduct his own wife?
    Question 2: Where did he keep her all of those weeks as his son grew to full term?
    Question 3: How did he avoid detection when he went to provide food etc. to her?
    Question 4: Why would he cut open his own wife's body while she was alive?
    Question 5: Why would he rip his own son out of her, killing them both? For what purpose?
    Question 6: Why would he decide to dump the bodies in the worst possible place for him, a place where the police had already spent $1 million searching (without any result)?
    Question 7: How did he manage this without being detected. He was being followed 24/7 and his vehicles were fitted with secret GPS trackers.

    Any reasonable person would come to the simpler conclusion - that Laci Peterson was abducted for her fetus by a woman who killed them both, presumably by accident. It is a pity that, as the police testified under oath in court, "Laci Peterson sightings were not a priority". Certainly the police had weeks to rescue Mrs Peterson and, potentially, her son.