Vincent Carroll describes a recent case of criminal libel, then concludes:
[J.P.] Weichel [of Loveland] may not be a very nice guy, but the answer isn’t to put him in jail for speech that doesn’t endanger a soul. If what he said was false, then the victims should sue him for libel.
But leave the district attorney out of it.
It is a horribly written, nonobjective law:
18-13-105. Criminal libel.
(1) A person who shall knowingly publish or disseminate, either by written instrument, sign, pictures, or the like, any statement or object tending to blacken the memory of one who is dead, or to impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation or expose the natural defects of one who is alive, and thereby to expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule, commits criminal libel.
(2) It shall be an affirmative defense that the publication was true, except libels tending to blacken the memory of the dead and libels tending to expose the natural defects of the living.
(3) Criminal libel is a class 6 felony.
Notice that the law expressly allows the possibility of true “libel,” though the more common sense of the term implies that a libelous statement is false. The first paragraph contains no test of truth.
We have every right — and indeed a moral responsibility — to “blacken the memory” of bad people who have died, as well as to impeach the reputations of the living insofar as they negatively impact the culture or polity.
Colorado’s criminal libel statute is an affront not only to free speech but to justice.
I hereby publicly declare that the politicians who supported the passage of this statute thereby violated liberty and justice and implemented an idiotic law. My express purpose here is to “blacken the memory” of those politicians. I further publicly declare that among the “natural defects” of Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson, who filed charges against Weichel, is a willingness to trample liberty and justice, insofar as he sanctions the criminal libel statute. I intend here to impeach his reputation, and I heartily encourage the public to heap upon him hatred, contempt, and ridicule for this case.
(While I hate to follow such a diatribe with a magnanimous note, Abrahamson may have inadvertently performed a public service by again bringing this unjust law to public light and giving the 2009 legislature another opportunity to repeal it. Now all Abrahamson needs to do to restore his reputation is to testify for the law’s repeal.)