Free Speech Under Attack
If we are to remain a free people, we need the foundation of the First Amendment. Free Speech guarantees every individual the freedom to express private opinions and beliefs publicly. Without public discourse and the freedom of associations, we will lose the greatest gift from our founding fathers.
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Issues Important Rulings for Due Process and Free Speech
AUSTIN, Tex. – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, issued two decisions late yesterday in the cases of David and Stacy Cary, both appeals for bribery convictions relating to political campaigning. Both decisions acquit the Carys, ruling that the evidence was legally insufficient to uphold their convictions. The Pillar of Law Institute filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief in Stacy Cary’s case, which was cited in the court's opinion.
“This is the latest in a line of political prosecutions that the Court of Criminal Appeals has reversed in recent years,” said Stephen Klein, Pillar attorney and lead author of its brief. “From cases against established politicos like Representative Tom DeLay and Governor Rick Perry to regular citizens like the Carys, Texas prosecutors have too frequently ignored constitutional safeguards for due process and political speech. Hopefully the Cary rulings will be a wake-up call.”
In 2008, the Carys paid a political consultant to help elect Suzanne Wooten for judge in Collin County, Texas, and replace Charles Sandoval. The consultant used the money to pay for Wooten’s campaign expenses and was then reimbursed by Wooten as she raised money from donors. The Texas Attorney General’s office brought bribery charges, alleging the money was a bribe from the Carys to Wooten to run for office, to continue running for office, or to rule in their favor in a case after she won the election.
“The prosecutors basically proved the money was a political contribution to Wooten under Texas law, but the law excludes political contributions from bribery charges,” said Klein. “The statutes here are clear, but the prosecutors skated around them. Thankfully, the court saw through this and acquitted the Carys.”
Pillar attorneys have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in several Texas political speech cases, from Tom DeLay’s appeals to an ongoing appeal on behalf of Michael Quinn Sullivan. Pillar’s brief in the Cary case emphasized the free speech problems of considering political contributions to be bribes, and discussed the dangerous chill that would accompany upholding the Carys’ convictions.
The Pillar of Law Institute is a nonprofit public interest law firm. Located in Washington, DC, Pillar represents citizens nationwide against unconstitutional censorship of political speech. James “Trey” Trainor III of the firm Akerman LLP in Austin served as local counsel on the brief.
Attorney, Pillar of Law Institute