Monday, March 01, 2010

Retrial of Hal Turner Gets Underway

Hal Turner, the right wing hatemonger who is accused of making death threats against three federal court judges, is again on trial in Brooklyn. The first trial ended in a mistrial; the new case will include additional witnesses and evidence.
Turner, 47, of North Bergen is accused of threatening to assault and murder the judges with intent to impede, intimidate and interfere with the jurists while engaged in the performance of their official duties, or with intent to retaliate.

His first trial ended in a mistrial in December when the jury deadlocked with a majority favoring acquittal.

As the retrial got under way Monday, U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter made it clear that this trial would be handled differently.

He told Turner’s lawyers they could not make an opening statement to the jury until the government has rested its case. He also forbade them from revealing during cross-examination that Turner had worked as an informant for the FBI, providing intelligence on the white supremacist movement, until the defense puts on its own case.

Turner’s lawyers contend he did nothing more than express an opinion. They said he was coached by the FBI to make provocative statements on the air and on his blog as a way of keeping tabs on right-wing hate groups and other extremist organizations that were drawn to his caustic rhetoric.
Where does free speech end and criminality begin? In Turner's case, he went well over that line by espousing violence against the three federal court judges.

Moreover, that he was an informant for some time before he was arrested should not affect this case - no one forced him to make the statements and he was not working for the FBI at the time he made them. He crossed that line.

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