National leaders of the largest journalism organization in the United States have expressed their disappointment in Miami-Dade County Court Judge Jose L. Fernandez for violating my First Amendment rights.
Fernandez, as I mentioned in a previous post, gave me an extremely harsh sentence and criticized me for having blogged about my case.
From the SPJ press release:
“The fact that Mr. Miller was arrested for taking pictures in a public place was the first violation of his First Amendment rights,” SPJ President Clint Brewer said. “Those rights were violated again when Mr. Miller’s statements in his blog became factors in Fernandez’s sentence. The Society fully defends Mr. Miller’s right to speak freely in his blog.”
SPJ’s David Cuillier also wrote an opinionated piece on the situation, which includes tips for photographers on how to deal with police confrontations.
Miami photographer Carlos Miller was found guilty of resisting arrest in a drawn-out legal battle over taking photos on a public street, but what is astonishing in this case is how the judge reacted. Even though the prosecutor asked for only three months probation and court costs, Judge Jose L. Fernandez slapped Miller with a year probation, court costs, 100 hours of community service, and anger management class. In court the judge told Miller he was appalled by Miller’s non-remorse (for taking pictures in public?), body language during trial and chit-chat with his relatives.
During a time of newsroom layoffs and shrinking news holes – not to mention never-ending arrests of journalists – the Society of Professional Journalists has proven once again to be a stand-up organization.
The influential journalism organization has been in my corner from day one. From former South Florida Chapter President Darcie Lunsford to current South Florida Chapter President Julie Kay as well as the national leaders who approved a total of $3,000 towards my defense fund, SPJ might be the saving grace of journalism.