The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Turner Case Ends in Mistrial

By Sonia Scherr on December 7, 2009 - 5:41 pm, Posted in Neo-Nazi

Hal Turner’s case ended in a mistrial today after a jury was unable to decide whether the hate blogger was guilty of threatening three federal judges. A new trial is set for March 1 in Brooklyn, according to The Associated Press.

The jury voted 9-3 for acquittal, according to the only juror who spoke with reporters afterward. During its deliberations Friday afternoon and Monday, the jury twice sent notes to the judge saying it was hopelessly deadlocked.

Turner was charged with threatening to assault and murder three federal charges in Chicago after he wrote on his blog that they “deserve to be killed” and posted their work addresses. Government prosecutors argued that Turner was trying to intimidate the judges with the June postings on his website for extremists. The defense argued that Turner’s statements were protected by the First Amendment and that he was betrayed by the government he’d served as an FBI informant.

  • beholder


    There I disagree.

    The term “illegal alien” may not be expressly perjorative, but certainly it carries negative connotations: one might even say it is dehumanizing. The common abbreviation to “illegal” or “illegals” however is perjorative and I consider such terms hate speech.

    We define conduct as legal or illegal, never human beings. Why is it we reserve the term illegal as a descriptive moniker only for immigrants? Is a driver with out of date car registration an “illegal motorist”? Is a US citizen who commits identity theft an “illegal citizen”?

    The reason why it is necessary to be careful with our language is because it exposes underlying biases. When you say black, are you saying a person was colored this way? Is one black only in comparison to white people? Similarly “colored”, once thought correct, is offensive because nobody colored anybody. The term “African American” is preferred because it refers to african origins, which were affected by the diaspora of global slavery. I think most people do not care, but this is largely due to decades of awareness about racism inherent in our language. But I think we should be mindful that even if some do not care about the minutae of racial or ethnic terminology, others do care very much.

    Looking deeper into this question, I think we will find that the only reason why we have racial descriptions at all, in a pluralist society, is because we have racial disparities. Whether or not language is at the core of prejudice, it can be demonstrated that language is an instrument of racial oppression and hate.

    By calling attention to the language, we are calling attention to the underlying biases.

    We need to recognize that national origin is a suspect class under the 14th Amd. If you are calling a class of people “illegal”, and this class of people shares the qualifier of national origin, then I believe it is correct for a Supreme Court justice to prefer a more accurate, less emotionally-charged phrase like “undocumented”.

    The fact is human migration occured long before we had any concept of legal or illegal immigration. These are merely two codified concepts to describe one essential phenomenon: migration. Legal or illegal status is not determined by the person we attribute this label to. It is determined by policy alone. Thus it is unfair to label people, who are entitled to the protections of our laws within our jurisdiction, as “illegals”.

    Those who do so, in my view, are bigots.

  • Carter

    There are some who believe that verbiage on that level denotes the speaker’s bottom line conviction. I am not too sure as Carpenter seemed quite complex. But (perhaps) Sotomayor wanted to appear unswayed by ethnicity…..I can only guess. I re-read it again to see if I missed something but it’s not obvious to me on the surface…(?)

    I live in S.. AZ, close to the Boarder. The term “Illegal Alien” is not considered pejorative on the whole but when one speaks with an undergrad student at the local university, some of them insist on another expression.
    Personally speaking I don’t like having someone push me into a manner of speaking about such an issue ; especially if I have Latino blood. Perhaps the Justice felt the same way?

    I’ve wondered if Black men & women care so much whether they are called Black, African American, etc. As long as it’s not demeaning I don’t think many folks care anymore.
    If you didn’t do the paperwork, technically your ARE illegal, I would think. Our country is perhaps one of the most lenient countries I can think of in-so-far as immigration is concerned.

  • beholder

    Just out of curiosity, Carter, how do you feel about Justice Sotomayor using the language “undocumented immigrant” instead of “illegal alien” in the decison on Mohawk v Carpenter?

  • beholder

    All worthy considerations.

    I will look to our laws on this regarding libel and slander, thebest I can come up with to address the issue of name calling. The truth is always positive defense against any claims of libel or slander. Therefore what legal basis, not moral, do we have to refrain from “name calling” in court when indeed those names are true?

    If your point is that name calling can appear juvenile, and that it could well turn off juries, well fine, I have no argument there. In fact I think it points to the pressing need to force this issue to the top of mind, so that in such cases when legitimate charges of racism and bigotry are levelled in court, the tired old “race card” defense won’t automatically be accepted as valid.

    We can talk about race and racism without being racists, just as we can talk about bigots and bigotry without being bigots. Looking at the facts as I understand them, I think we can all agree that Mr Turner is a bigot. It is not a crime to be a bigot, but establishing that he is a bigot (i.e. one who has extreme intolerance to another person’s views), is an important conclusion when looking at hate crimes, in my opinion. Just as “ignorant”, “bigot” is not necessarily a perjorative term but merely descriptive.

    It’s not like calling him a white devil or something.

  • Carter

    @ Beholder:

    While I agree that such a thing is an affront to the American people (& people everywhere), what we have is a trial based on laws and not the pathology of bigotry in general. The 14th And. is not a verbal element but one of human rights. Actions deprive a person of those rights. Words requesting that action COULD be so but again; you have to convince a jury through logic not name calling. Just as in politics, calling a person a name won’t sway votes unless the voters function at a juvenile level. {“Dancing with the Stars”….)
    This is where I believe the jury was frozen.
    You see the expression of ethnic hatred was not at the core of the trial’s purpose; the calling for direct illegal physical action against a group was the element in question. The trial was not dealing with the substance of bigotry via name calling but the calling for illegal action against a collection of peoples (who enter the picture as being on the opposite side as the bigot’s agenda).

    My proposal regarding “name calling” was targeted in a similar direction. It was an attempt to illustrate how name calling obscures the logical premise of any perspective.. Yet, while not illegal for the most part, it blurs the essence of the discussion or trial’s purpose & outcome.
    When we indulge ourselves in calling a Progressive names that depict that person as a mindless individual who would attempt to perpetuate a “nanny state” mentality or we call a Conservative a “wingnut” who wallows in vast selfishness, we alienate those who could see the positive middle ground as well as learn to understand why a diffing political perspective develops & even appreciate a different point of view.. ..
    Imagine if we DID all vote for ONE political party! Or we all thought only one way of thinking was the “CORRECT” one?
    Moving away from this [in turn would] provide our Nation with much deeper communication in seeing through the eyes of another why they hold certain views. Many strongly held views are made from the PERCEPTION of fear – BOTH Right & Left.
    From a larger perspective, “fear” sells! Neither side is guiltless in this technique.
    Rare is the politician who would risk his base constituency by chastising their own for such tactics. I don’t know if I can think of a time when a politician spoke to his “crowd” & told them such name calling was unproductive & to stop it.
    But it’s my contention that is why politics is SO damn childish & turns off many more potential voters than it solidifies.
    This trial did not have to wallow in a hung jury. Some aspect of the attorneys dialog obviously either turned off some members or did not capture those who could have been swayed. It’s my contention was that it was not convincing the jury that a law was broken by side-tracking the dialog with the depth of the defendant’s bigotry…..
    Being ignorant of life’s complexities (bigotry) is not against the law but calling for a person to be harmed can certainly be. The thrust must be a logical one. My percection comes down to this:
    Further emotionalism in such an emotionally charged venue is a marketing gimmick best left to TV.

  • Herbert E. Larson

    This all comes down to the First Amendment and the sacred right of free speech, and not using it to incite riot or violence. Now Mr. Turner with writing, “they deserved to die”, stays within the limits. He steps over the line when he posts their work addresses for any mentally unbalanced person to sit, wait and watch to kill. Now Mr. Truner can say that was not what he intended, but he has to realize that percentage of the people who read and follow him are not the most stable thinking people. That is why the proper use of free speech is more important now than in the past, it should never be used to lie, misinform, or incite violence or riot.

  • beholder


    Your comments on bigotry merit discourse. Clearly what you say is reasonable and true, at least to a small degree, for whatever truth is there is to the fallacy of name-calling does not conceal the bigot. To openly call for hate against a given ethnicity, gender, national origin, or other suspect qualifier under the 14th Amendment is an affront to our American principles and should be reasonably considered abhorent. Even though the expression of hatred is generally protected, no citizen should be encouraged to hold back from exposing the perils that bigotry bring to our society. If society hates looking in a mirror, it still has Dancing With the Stars.

  • beholder

    It is absolutely a hate crime. Anybody who made that kind of a remark about a public official would be visited by Secret Service. Why should any ordinary citizen, much less one so obviously in personal danger as a function of their public service, be held to such low regard as to allow menacing racists to broadcast speech inciting violence against federal judges?

  • Carter

    Conviction must meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” criteria. This is the standard of the legal system of the United States & one of the things that makes our country great. – But i it s a severe challenge to competing attorneys.
    Obviously the Defense was successful OR the Prosecution was amiss. This occurs during a Criminal trial. In a Civil trial we have what is known as the Preponderance of Evidence” – an easier goal to accomplish (see the O.J. Simpson Trials)

    To convince a Judge or Jury, many times “name calling” or things of that nature – lessen the ability of the attorney to convince individuals that there is REAL logic and weight to their argument.
    That is one of the reasons why I personally, do NOT call Conservatives or Progressives names. Name calling is the mark of someone with limited skills to sway the listener to the LOGIC of their proposal. Examine “Talk Radio” – it’s FULL of childish name calling. but yet the same occurs in OP-ED columns with a differing political slant.

    Painting someone as a Bigot is difficult unless that person “helps you” by his own name calling of an ethnicity. We know this inherently to be true. One of the reasons this trial may be tough is that no one is a mind-reader.
    This trial (hopefully) was built on the evidence of Turner’s guilt (beyond a doubt) of his breaking the law…..NOT his bigotry. If that was the case; the jury selection was deep in Turner’s favor.
    If the attorney goes for the “bigotry angle” to the exclusion of the bottom-line of the Law, he will continually have a darn tough time.