Texas Vs Johnson Essay

702 words - 3 pages

     Texas vs. Johnson
A very controversial court case in American history was Texas vs. Johnson (1984). In 1984, a man named Gregory Lee Johnson followed a group of anti – Reagan protesters to oppose the American exploitation of third world countries. This act of rebellion resulted in the burning of the American flag. Out of a total of approximately one hundred demonstrators who were involved in this ordeal, Johnson was solely charged with a crime. Johnson was arrested under Texas law, which made the burning of the United States or Texas flags crimes. Johnson was convicted and sentenced to one year in jail and fined two thousand dollars for his crime in restitution. Texas reasoned that the police were preventing the breach of peace; consider the flag a symbol of national unity. At Johnson's court trial, he was convicted of aiding, abetting and encouraging the burning of the Texan flag. This, in turn, made Johnson guilty under Texas state law.
Johnson and his lawyers were dissatisfied with this decision and made an appeal to the Fifth Texas Supreme Judicial District. This appeal, made on May 8, 1985 would be titled as Texas vs. Johnson. The defense argued that Johnson was prosecuted in violation of the first Amendment, clearly states that no law may take away a person's freedom of speech or expression, and of the Bill of Rights and the free speech clause of the Texas Constitution. Johnson argued that in his opinion, flag burning is part of freedom of expression. In Johnson’s defense, he stated that “the American Flag was burned as Ronald Reagan was being re-nominated as President and a more powerful statement of symbolic speech, whether you agree with it or not, couldn't have been made at that time…" To the surprise of many people, on April 20, 1988 the Texas court of criminal appeals declared by a vote of 5 – 4 that the original decision was unconstitutional and that Texas violated his first amendment right of freedom of expression.
This case then was put up to the national level and sent to the United States...

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