Defending Expression: United States v. Fletcher.

Defending Expression: United States v. Fletcher.

Is it possible for a person to go to jail for telling the story of how people and sometimes minors were tortured, raped and killed? It sounds a little extreme to imagine, but perhaps it isn’t hard to imagine, the idea doesn’t seem impossible. Take the same question and add the word “fiction” to it: is it possible for a person to go to jail for telling the fictional story of how people and some minors were raped, tortured and killed? Perhaps people can be shocked for someone writing such stories and even more shocking is the fact that people read them but, what does it matter? People read about werewolves, vampires, robots, aliens, angels and detectives; fiction doesn’t have limits, could anybody be considered a criminal for writing fiction? The idea seems crazy right? Well, not in America.

In recent years, the US has seen a tremendous rise of content being uploaded to all kinds of Web sites: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. People publish everything these days, from pictures of their cats to stories about what they saw at an earthquake or narratives about what happened at a terrorist attack. It is not strange to find wonderful stories, funny stories, scary stories and even boring stories on the Internet; however fabulous, innocent, funny, ridiculous or descriptive, people always find means to communicate and if there is a message there’s always someone willing to hear it. Take for example the case of Karen Fletcher, who had her own Web site “Red Rose stories” where she published some of her fictional stories. So far, nothing seems out of order, and it shouldn’t, people do that all the time, the only difference with Fletcher was the content of her stories: grim, dark and spooky stories that sometimes involved minors and children involved in horrible cases of torture, rape and murder; however, Fletcher always made it clear that her stories were fictional, there wasn’t any picture, not even a drawing.

The relevance of the Fletcher case lies within three important elements:
Written (Fiction) censorship, Web censorship and more importantly Obscenity.
It is a very relevant case because it helps to outline obscenity and child pornography. The main questions for the case could be: “Is fictional writing a crime?” and perhaps even better: “is the fictional description of fictional characters (minors in this case) suffering fictional sexual abuse considered a REAL crime?” According to the decision of Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, the answer is yes; fictional characters and imaginative narratives do translate into a real, punishable crime.

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Even tough Ms. Fletcher’s case will not set any precedent related to text-only-fictional obscenity prosecutions (because she voluntarily pled guilty) it does set interesting scenarios to describe how could this case have been won, its viable defenses (using First amendment rights and obscenity definitions) the backwardness in the court ruling in this case and perhaps it helps to set a better definition of what to do in newer cases that have similarities, that dwell in fictional graphic descriptions and to (hopefully) illustrate with examples such as Ms. Buchanan that material that they consider “disturbing, disgusting and vile[1]”  doesn’t necessarily mean it is or that it translates into obscenity.

For more information regarding the case of Fletcher, visit:

Article 1
Article 2

More specific information according to Freedom of Expression and Media Law regarding to the case:

Link

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[1] Reed, Paula. “Afraid.” Afraid of public trial, author to plead guilty in online obscenity. (2008): n. page 1. Web.

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~ by lukavi on May 1, 2013.

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