Appeals court upholds Va. ban on displaying nooses to intimidate

Jack Turner apologized in court on December 8, 2015 for a situation he called "blown out of proportion." (WSLS)
Jack Turner apologized in court on December 8, 2015 for a situation he called "blown out of proportion." (WSLS)

RICHMOND, Va. (WSLS) – The Virginia Court of Appeals has ruled to uphold Virginia’s ban on “displaying [a] noose on property of another or a highway or other public place with intent to intimidate.”

The court found that the ban does not violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and that display of a noose on private property can still constitute display in a “public place.”

“The Commonwealth will not tolerate expressions of hate, intolerance, or bigotry intended to intimidate people because of their race,” said state Attorney General Mark Herring. “The display of a noose as a threat has rightly been banned in Virginia because it is an unmistakable signal that evokes the horrific and shameful specter of lynching. I will always stand up for those who are subject to harassment, intimidation, or persecution, and will do all I can to call out and hold accountable anyone who violates the rights of our fellow Virginians and makes them feel fearful and unwelcome.”

The case was an appeal by Jack Eugene Turner, of Franklin County, for his conviction on one count of displaying a noose with the intent to intimidate. The conviction stemmed from an incident in which an African-American woman in Franklin County was driving down her street and “spotted an all-black, life-size dummy hanging by a noose from a tree” in Turner’s front yard, which was located next-door to one of two African-American households on the street.

During an investigation by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, Turner indicated the display was meant to scare people away and admitted to being racist and having negative feelings toward African-Americans. After being photographed, the display was removed. All this occurred on the same day as the mass shooting of churchgoers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

According to the Court of Appeals’ decision, “the record reflects that while Turner was out on bond awaiting his sentencing hearing, he placed a handmade cardboard sign against his house that read, ‘Black ni**er lives don’t matter, got rope.’”

On Sept. 22, 2015, Turner was convicted of violating Virginia’s ban on displaying a noose with intent to intimidate. He appealed his conviction challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s statute and whether the display occurred in “a public place.”

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