Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What happens when only Republicans turn out to vote

You get the highest criminal court in Texas ruling that it's legally okay for pervos to take upskirts.

Confused and frustrated people tore out enough hair to fill a ten-gallon hat when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that a statute banning “improper photography,” such as taking sketchy shots of children in bathing suits who have no idea they are being photographed, was unconstitutional this week. The WTF reactions went beyond the Lone Star State with national news sites wondering how it was possible that such a blatant personal violation — and one that is a potential harbinger of child pornography — could have no legal ramifications?

Yet, with almost complete unanimity (only one of the nine judges dissented), the highest criminal court in Texas struck down the section of the improper photography law that forbids taking photographs in non-bathroom and non-dressing room spaces (essentially public spaces) under the following conditions:

— without the other person’s consent; and
— with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person

Didn't I just reference something about the egregious, horrid, painfully obnoxious, conservative-extremist-Republican Court of Criminal Appeals less than a week ago?  I wonder if any straight-ticket-voting Republicans will try to blame this on those ACLU socialists at the CCA.

The case they decided involved a nice fellow -- none of his neighbors would have ever guessed he was a weirdo -- who took photos and video of women, and young children, in their swimming attire.  Please note that bastion of Puritans in Massachusetts has specifically banned upskirt photos.  Oh, and the Texas Lege went a little farther.  But they apparently stretched too far -- surprise! -- and the court struck the law down.

It is evident in the ruling that fears of potentially sweeping First Amendment violations drove the ruling, which is painfully ironic considering presiding Judge Sharon Keller’s disregard for other individual rights. Keller earned the nickname “Sharon Killer” for effectively blocking the stay of an execution in 2007 by refusing to let her court remain open past 5 p.m. Apparently, Keller’s rigidly lethal punctuality is tempered by her generous view of freedom of expression.

There remain plenty of defenders of the right to... something.

Creepy? Yeah. Illegal? Not so, the Court of Appeals ruled.

The photos themselves and the act of using a camera are covered by the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech, the court said. If the photos aren’t actually obscene, it’s not the government’s job to police how a person reacts to them.

People in public can’t expect total privacy, the court went on. They are, after all, publicly visible to anyone who might pass by. Even someone taking an upskirt photo.

“A person who walks down a public street cannot prevent others from looking at him or her with sexual thoughts in their heads,” the court said.

The original law does accomplish what it aimed to do, criminalize upskirt photos, the court added. But it goes much farther than that, which could lead to the law being misused — which is why they struck it down.

“This statute could easily be applied to an entertainment reporter who takes a photograph of an attractive celebrity on a public street,” the court said.

Bottom line? The invasion of privacy of an upskirt photo is “intolerable, and the legislature ought to ban it, the court said. This just isn’t the law to do it.

The last word.

Protecting someone who appears in public from being the object of sexual thoughts seems to be the sort of ‘paternalistic interest in regulating the defendant’s mind’ that the 1st Amendment was designed to guard against. We also keep in mind the Supreme Court’s admonition that the forms of speech that are exempt from 1st Amendment protection are limited, and we should not be quick to recognize new categories of unprotected expression.

Yup, you read that right — anti-creepshot laws are “paternalistic.” Indeed, Thompson’s attorney echoed this sentiment, in casting the laws as “Orwellian.”

This story should give pause to Texan women everywhere. The Court essentially ruled that women anywhere out in public have no reasonable expectation of privacy, even if an unwanted photographer’s intent is overtly sexual — in practice, it makes visiting a water park for a woman in Texas like signing a release waver to be ogled and snapshotted. This isn’t to say that freedom of expression, photography and videography rules in public places aren’t important — they undoubtedly are, and forcing courts and juries to make judgments about the intent behind random photographs can be a precarious position.

But as the law stands now, especially after this ruling, it’s hard not to feel as though Texas’ women are being failed in the most basic of ways. When the same anti-creepshot law was ruled against in 2013, the Bexar County district attorney’s office put out a press release with a cautionary title, according to The Guardian: “Cover up while we appeal.” For now, at least, that message still rings true — in Texas, it seems, wearing a swimsuit in a public place is giving license to lech.

I'd like to think that Texas women -- and yes, Texas liberals and progressives, the people who are the only ones concerned with the greater good --  could begin to gradually correct some of this legal nonsense by establishing a habit of voting every time there's an election.  And if the tide is turning; if it's happening as this is written, then all the better.  I'd just like to live long enough to see some progress made with regard to the Neanderthals in the Texas judicial system evolving into something that comes closer to being human.  You know, with a soul and/or a conscience.

But I doubt that will ever happen, so they need to be voted out of office.  Click here and scroll to the very bottom.  Up from there -- seven races -- are the candidates on your November ballot for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals... and the Texas Supreme Court as well.  Let's get started by not voting for any of the Republicans.

For the sake of your wives, daughters, and all Texas women.

1 comment:

Greg said...

The coverage of this decision has presented it in the worst possible light. Perhaps you might want to consider the perspective from a noted expert on First Amendment law. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/09/18/texas-highest-criminal-court-strikes-down-improper-photography-statute/