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Writing - It's Legal

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Thursday, the California Supreme Court overturned a felony conviction of student who wrote a "violence-laced poem" at the age of 15. The teenager was sentenced to 100 days in Juvy for the "threatening" nature of his writing. The ACLU said the ruling was a "resounding victory for students' 1st Amendment rights of creative expression," and a Santa Clara Law Professor who helped prepare the teen for court hopes that the ruling will prevent similar forms of prosecution in the future.

The teenager's case became a bit of a cause celebre as a number of prominent writers spoke out to back him. In particular, Michael Chabon wrote a notable editorial on the subject in the New York Times in April.

The dark closing lines of the teenager's poem were construed as a "threat." The controversy occured at the student's high school in March of 2001. It had been just 11 days since the school shooting in Santee, which may help to explain the motivation for the severity of his punishment. In court, he explained his motivation for writing the closing:

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He told the juvenile court that he wanted his poem to have a powerful ending that evoked danger. "I just wanted to … kind of get you, like, like, whoa, that's really something," he said on the stand.

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