Tag Archives: Guest Post

Banned Books Week is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the dangers of censorship and the importance of the First Amendment

In light of the ongoing furor over Nashville Prep’s edits to and a school board member’s complaint about the book entirely, a timely article by Professor David L. Hudson Jr. on banned book week.  Republished upon request from The Newseum Institute’s website:

By David L. Hudson, Jr.:

Beginning Sept. 27, 2015.  the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers for Free Expression, and a host of other groups  will remind us once again that that banning books damages the “marketplace of ideas” and is contrary to the meaning and purpose of a free society and a constitutional democracy.

Acclaimed authors such as Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, and Maya Angelou have seen their books banned in certain school districts.   Classics such as J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple have faced censorship.   The wildly popular Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling has faced significant opposition.

Books may be opposed for a variety of reasons, such as profanity, sexually explicit themes, sorcery, gambling, and violence.   The ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom website provides detailed descriptions of books challenged year by year and by decade, offers a top ten list, and provides detailed statistics.

The U.S. Supreme Court addressed the concept of banning books from a public school library in Bd. of Educ. v. Pico (1982). Five years ago, in an interview, Robert Rieger – one of the students who challenged the censorship in the Pico case – said that  “I couldn’t believe they were taking classics from the library.”

In the Pico decision, Justice William Brennan wrote that public school officials could not remove books from library shelves simply because they disagreed with the ideas in those books.   In his reasoning, Brennan emphasized the “right to receive ideas.”

This “right” should be sacrosanct in this nation.  Inquisitive minds shouldn’t be repressed or rebuffed. Rather, they should be applauded or encouraged.

We want an educated populace who loves to read and explore.  Justice Louis Brandeis warned in 1927 that “the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.”

Celebrate “Banned Books Week” by taking time to reflect on the importance of First Amendment freedoms and the power of “the right to receive ideas.”

David L. Hudson, Jr. is the Ombudsman for the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center. He also is the author or co-author of more than 40 books, including The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech (2012).


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Tennessee Supreme Court Holds that a Witness’s Claim of Memory Loss Concerning Prior Statements Can Trigger Hearsay Exceptions and that Inconsistent Verdicts Are Acceptable

Guest Post by Memphis Attorney Neil Umsted

A witness’ claimed lack of memory at trial, whether legitimate or feigned, will trigger a number of rules that can allow that witness’ prior statements to be introduced as substantive evidence, the Tennessee Supreme Court held in State v. Marlo Davis, W2011-01548-SC-R11-CD.  Moreover, the Court held that so-called “inconsistent verdicts” will not, standing alone, entitle a defendant to any relief.

Marlo Davis was indicted along with a co-defendant for felony murder and premeditated murder—alternative theories of guilt for the homicide of a single victim. At trial, one of the State’s key witnesses, Jarcquise Spencer, testified that he did not recall witnessing the shooting, that he did not recall identifying the Defendant as the shooter in a statement to police, and that he did not recall testifying at the preliminary hearing in the case.  The trial court, convinced that Spencer was feigning his memory loss, allowed the State to introduce Spencer’s prior statements and prior testimony as proof of the defendant’s guilt.

Continue reading Tennessee Supreme Court Holds that a Witness’s Claim of Memory Loss Concerning Prior Statements Can Trigger Hearsay Exceptions and that Inconsistent Verdicts Are Acceptable