Legislation / Court Cases

Minnesota Supreme Court Overturns Convictions of Pro-Lifers Who Held Abortion Signs

On Thursday, July 12, the Minnesota Supreme Court handed down an important ruling, reversing the criminal convictions of pro-life protesters Ron Rudnick and Luke Otterstad for displaying large signs on an overpass on two occasions in the Twin Cities suburb of Anoka, Minnesota just weeks before the 2004 national elections.

One sign displayed a large color photo of the aborted infant, “Baby Malachi,” while next to it was a large handwritten sign that branded a local Congressional candidate as “pro-abortion.”

On both occasions the pro-lifers were arrested and jailed by Anoka police, who also took their signs. Charges of “criminal nuisance” and a violation of Anoka’s sign ordinance were upheld by a trial judge. Stiff fines and prison sentences were imposed.

Chicago’s Thomas More Society was asked to help and underwrote an appeal, but appellate Judges upheld both convictions.

Thomas More Society reassembled its team of appellate and Minnesota’s Supreme Court allowed a further appeal.

Oral arguments were held last November, and last week when a four Justice plurality ruled that the prosecution hadn’t proven the signs a criminal “nuisance” or that Anoka’s sign ordinance even applied. Two other Justices agreed with Justice Alan Page who wrote in his concurrence that defendants’ First Amendment rights were violated as the prosecution had been “content-based” – aimed at the pro-life message.

Tom Brejcha, chief counsel of the Thomas More Society told LifeNews.com, “Graphic photos are controversial even among pro-lifers. We urge that they be used prudently and sparingly – with warning signs wherever possible. But our society has to confront the brutal, bloody realities of this murderous atrocity, as mere abstract rhetoric too often fails to trigger the deep, visceral reaction needed to overcome contemporary America’s bland indifference to this carnage.”

[18July07, MN, LifeNews.com]