New Pennsylvania Legislation Sucker Punches Inmate Speech
Part II of II
The serious injustice endured by Pennsylvania prison inmate Lorenzo ‘Cat’ Johnson, detailed yesterday in Part I of this series, is the subject of a website and numerous other postings on the Internet. Those Internet postings detail gross misconduct by police and prosecutors that have kept Johnson imprisoned for a murder that evidence indicates he neither committed nor had anything to with.
Johnson served 16-years of a life sentence before a federal appeals court ordered his release in October 2011 after ruling insufficient evidence existed to maintain his conviction. Prosecutors never claimed Johnson was the killer only that he was present when the killing occurred.
However, a perverse appeal by Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office prosecutors forced Johnson’s return to prison in June 2012 –- following six-months of freedom.
Those websites supporting Johnson’s release, which contain documents and other evidence detailing Johnson’s wrongful conviction, are in danger of being wiped under terms of legislation recently approved by Pennsylvania’s Republican-dominated House and Senate.
That legislation, fast-tracked through the legislature in an election-timed attempt to boost the hugely unpopular Republican Gov. Corbett's flagging re-election bid, allows victims of crime to go to court for an injunction against the conduct of convicts “which perpetuates the continuing effects of the crime on the victim.” This new law applies to all convicts: those currently incarcerated and even those who have completed their sentences.
This law gives prosecutors (state and country) the power to act on behalf of victims who simply claim they are suffering “mental anguish.”
In the case of Lorenzo Johnson, the state AG’s office whose misconduct perpetuates his unjust incarceration is empowered under this new law to silence the websites that detail the misconduct of AG office prosecutors.
Pennsylvania’s new free speech suppression law is about to be signed into law by Corbett. “Nobody has the right to continually taunt the victims of their violent crimes,” he says.
However, the ACLU of Pennsylvania has blasted this bill, noting that it “completely undermines the fundamental value of free speech” found in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.