The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals -- the Supreme Court for criminal matters -- has upheld a lower court's decision to toss out the convictions of two protesters arrested outside of President Bush's Crawford ranch (Does he still go to that thing anymore?)
By a 5-4 vote, the TCCA found that the arrests were not warranted.
"Today's court ruling is a monumental victory for the First Amendment," ACLU of Texas Legal Director Lisa Graybill said. "Time and again we have said that Dr. Hardy and Mr. Myers were arrested for no other reason than expressing their views."
Here's what the majority opinion said:
One might also "obstruct" a highway by aiming a strobe light at oncoming traffic, thereby rendering passage unreasonably hazardous, but cavorting on the sidewalk while dressed as a gorilla would not "obstruct" a highway. A large object placed on the side of the road, but in the line of sight on a curve in the road, might also "obstruct," although a smaller object in the same location would not. In sum, an order to move to prevent an obstruction must be reasonable in the prevailing circumstances.[Presiding Judge Sharon] Keller took time out from fighting for her legal career to write the dissent:Photographs from the August protest show tents, cars, and port-a-potties encroaching on the pavement, and people sitting, standing, and walking on the pavement. Implicit in the testimony of one of the officers is that no arrests were made because there were so many protesters and so few officers. The situation in August had gotten out of hand, and law enforcement officers - quite reasonably - wanted to prevent that from happening again.We're just glad the ACLU got its filings in on time.
Judge Keller's dissent, joined by Judges Meyers, Keasler, and Hervey, agreed they weren't blocking traffic, but bizarrely claimed that defendants, "by sitting in a tent beside the road, rendered passage unreasonably inconvenient or hazardous."
It's a strange fact that four members of the Court of Criminal Appeals think you can obstruct a roadway when you're not in it, but perhaps the bigger surprise is that five judges on the court disagreed with them.