May 16, 2007

Why does a murderer have freedom of speech?

Two years ago, anti-abortion terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph struck a deal to avoid the death penalty, and instead got life in prison. He bombed a homosexual nightclub and an abortion clinic, and also set off a bomb at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Now, Rudolph's victims are upset that the convicted terrorist is writing letters that are being posted on the Internet.

Anyone who has been reading this blog for long knows that I am a consistent defender of First Amendment rights. However, I think it is both laughable and despicable to argue, as U.S. Attorney Alice Martin did, that "An inmate does not lose his freedom of speech."


It has been established that, in our legal system, someone can forfeit his right to life by committing certain crimes. Two examples of this are serial killer Ted Bundy and Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh. Both were rightly executed by the state for the horrific crimes that they committed. It is unfortunate that Rudolph will not share that fate.

Rudolph has already given up several of his Constitutional and legal rights. For example, he does not have the right to keep and bear arms (which would be really stupid) and the privacy protections of the Fourth Amendment do not apply to his prison cell. He does not have the right to peaceably assemble. He does not have the right to travel freely. Why are his "free speech" rights so special?

Whether Rudolph is writing letters mocking his victims or renouncing terrorism and advocating nonviolence, Eric Robert Rudolph willingly gave up his right to free speech the day he decided to start murdering people. The prison officials should have stopped him from writing these letters the day he was convicted of his crimes.

As far as the letters that are already out there, the genie is out of the bottle, so to speak. The government cannot censor what has already been posted on the Internet, no matter how sick and depraved it might be. But the state of Alabama can and should stop Rudolph from writing any further letters.