COA will hear free speech appeal in Facebook harassment case

An angry mother who made threatening posts on social media toward a police officer after the death of her son is now appealing her harassment conviction, arguing her free speech rights were violated.

Constance J. McGuire’s son died after consuming methamphetamine during a traffic stop in which Kokomo police officer Jeramie Dodd was involved. Upon her son’s death, McGuire made a Facebook post that included several threats against Dodd that were later reported to police by one of McGuire’s Facebook friends.

The shared post, which was under McGuire’s private Facebook account, but available to more than 1,000 of her Facebook friends, stated that members of the Kokomo Police Department “better watch out” and that “this mother is on a rampage and ready to shoot and kill.”

The message also made pointed comments toward Dodd, stating that he should have killed his own son instead of her own and that the KPD “messed with the wrong kid this time.” After the post was reported to law enforcement, McGuire was charged and later convicted of Class B misdemeanor harassment under Indiana Code Section 35-45-2-2(a)(4)(B).

On appeal, McGuire challenges the sufficiency of evidence supporting her conviction and argues her posts were legitimate free speech. She argues her conviction was unconstitutional in view of protections afforded to speech and free expression under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 9 of the Indiana Constitution.

An Indiana Court of Appeals panel consisting of Judges Patricia Riley, L. Mark Bailey and Rudolph Pyle III are scheduled to hear the appeal at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Court of Appeals Courtroom at the Statehouse in Indianapolis.

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