Congratulations to the Madison County jury that convicted former SIUE student Olutosin O. Oduwole for making terrorist threats and illegally possessing firearms in the summer of 2007.
After finding live ammunition in an abandoned vehicle belonging to Oduwole, police obtained a search warrant and went to his SIUE campus apartment, where they recovered a firearm (without the requisite permit from campus security) and a handwritten note from him threatening "a murderous rampage similar to the VT shooting."
Justin Kuehn, Oduwole's defense attorney, claimed his client was not a violent terrorist, but "a rap artist." The alleged terrorist threat was really just a song lyric.
It's the old rap song defense: "I wasn't threatening or advocating violence. I was just singing about it."
This now-standard defense of rap music – and of the criminal activities glorified in it -- is a good example of the increasingly common practice of claiming the Bill of Rights allows such antisocial or even subversive activities.
Vulgarity, obscenity, blasphemy, and the advocacy of criminal behavior have traditionally been discouraged and proscribed. People may have the capacity to engage in such speech, but not the "right" to.
The First Amendment was never meant to extend to every possible form of speech, no matter how offensive or destructive. No one has an unlimited right to say anything he pleases. No one has the right to advocate, endorse, or otherwise encourage the murder of policemen, for instance, or the rape, murder, and mutilation of women.
Encouraging a crime is also a crime, with or without musical accompaniment. Claiming to be an artist does not, or should not, give one immunity from prosecution.
There are limits to free speech which should be enforced.
The fact that Oduwole had not published his threat could have harmed the prosecution's case. We commend the jury for rejecting that argument.
We are also thankful police responded quickly and perhaps averted tragedy.