In the 1974 ruling of Procunier v. Martinez, the US Supreme Court sustained that prisoners are allowed to communicate with the outside world, and that their mail could not be seizured unless it pertained to “an important or substantial governmental interest unrelated to the suppression of expression.” This precedent, regarding the postal service, should be considered, in my opinion, when deliberating the cases of Sam Riddle and Roger Avary. These two men have both seen retribution from officials for utilizing their Twitter accounts in regards to or during their prison sentence.
First, the Detroit Free Press reports today on the Riddle case, quoting the Twitter post that saw him being chastised by his honor, U.S. District Avern Cohn, who said in regards to Riddle’s tweet:
“[K]eep his fingers off the keyboard as well as his mouth closed.”
This is what Riddle had written:
“Going To Fed Court Today. Drop Dead Date For Me To Say. “No Deal” & Go To Trial. Hate This Crap But Gotta Deal With It.”
He didn’t mention any details of his case, which involves him spreading bribes for a pawn shop in Southfield, including hand-delivering a bribe to secure the vote of Detroit Councilwoman Monica Conyers. Riddle did not provide information pertaining to anything which could be construed as governmentally sensitive. He merely stated where he was headed and his personal feelings on the matter. Does a Federal Judge have any legal right to bar his communication with the internet community pre-trial, particularly considering that he is not even an in-mate yet (and let alone may be found innocent)?
Okay, that may be too obtuse; how about the case of Roger Avary, the co-writer of Pulp Fiction and director of the film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel The Rules of Attraction, who is currently serving time for vehicular manslaughter whilst under the influence? As CNN reports, he’s been tweeting over the past month. He was part of a program that allowed him to leave during the day, to hold a job, but wherein he would be incarcerated over nights and weekends – he’s recently been removed from the program, and the tweets have stopped.
Does this not infringe on his inalienable rights? Ventura County, where Avary is being held, does not allow internet access in their facility (which stops prisoners from recieving emails from criminal contacts and relations alike): but shouldn’t they? Internet filters could be installed to screen emails that refer to contraband, as that pertains to prison security, but a complete ban? This is an undoubted infringement on the First Amendment rights of every single American – even those incarcerated. As Riddle posted on his Twitter later in the day:
They Stop Me From Tweeting -You Are Next