You Can't Go To Jail For Wishing Someone Would Die

You Can't Go To Jail For Wishing Someone Would Die

We’ve all done it, wished harm on an enemy or thought about the worst that could happen to a foe. But what about going so far as to leave threatening voice messages to someone who you perceive as being an enemy? What if that someone happened to be the Public Defender’s office?

A man found guilty of threatening a Cook County judge had his conviction reversed last month. The irony in this case is the man was originally in trouble for calling a former co-worker and threatening to kill him. He was convicted of telephone harassment and was to serve two years on probation. That probation is no joke, and one day the man had enough and let his temper take over.

The man convicted of phone harassment couldn’t hang up his phone in his fit of anger and called the public defender’s office. He expressed his anger with the court, judge, prosecuting attorney. He expressed that he thought about the death of the judge and other witnesses and claimed they all made him very sick. Originally, he was found guilty of threatening a public official. However, here’s what he didn’t do… “I am going to kill/harm/injure the judge and others involved in my case.” What he did was simply think about what it would be like if harm were to come to these people. There was no actual direct threat during the voicemail he left on the general line for the public defender. He didn’t ask the message to be forwarded to the judge and there was no implied “pass this message on.”

As it turns out, being miserable and praying for the death and destruction of someone is a thought crime, and not punishable by law, “there is no evidence justifying a reasonable inference that defendant intended to convey the idea of violent retribution.”

The man’s conviction was reversed and the felony conviction of harassment was removed from his record. Sadly, it was not remedied prior to him serving two years in prison for the offense although maybe he benefited from the time out.  But for the next person who goes on a rage and says their worst thoughts out loud will likely not meet the same fate.

Of course as a nerdy lawyer I have to warn that this is all a slippery slope and the best idea is to just scream in to a pillow or drink heavily or better yet, don't let someone get you down. I used to get mad at drivers that cut me off on the road, but now I just say, "They must have diarrhea" and it instantly makes me feel better.

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  • I can think of about 70 million people right now who would be in jail for wishing someone dead.

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