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What ever happened to the defendant in Cohen v. California?

I've been searching everywhere and i can't find any information on the defendant in cohen v. california Paul Robert Cohen. Can anyone help me with the information? thanks.


I meant after the trial... i know what happened to him during the trial... thanks though

2 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    On April 26, 1968, Paul Robert Cohen, 19, was arrested for wearing a jacket with the words "**** the Draft" inside the Los Angeles Courthouse. Inside the court room he had the jacket folded over his arm, only after exiting the room he put the jacket on and was then arrested. He was convicted of violating section 415 of the California Penal Code, which prohibited "maliciously and willfully disturb[ing] the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person [by] offensive conduct."

    The conviction was upheld by the California Court of Appeal, which held that "offensive conduct" means "behavior which has a tendency to provoke others to acts of violence or to in turn disturb the peace." After the California Supreme Court denied review, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari.

    [edit] The Court's decision

    The Court, by a vote of 6-3, per Justice John Marshall Harlan II, overturned the appellate court's ruling. "[A]bsent a more particularized and compelling reason for its actions," it said, "the State may not, consistently with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, make the simple public display of this single four-letter expletive a criminal offense."

    In the opinion Justice Harlan famously wrote "one man's vulgarity is another's lyric." (That quotation was later criticized by Robert Bork as "moral relativism.") [1]

    Harlan’s arguments can be constructed in three major points: First, states (California) cannot censor their citizens in order to make a “civil” society. Second, knowing where to draw the line between harmless heightened emotion and vulgarity can be difficult. Thirdly, people bring passion to politics and vulgarity is simply a side effect of a free exchange of ideas—no matter how radical they may be.

    [edit] Blackmun's dissent

    In a dissenting opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun, joined by Burger and Black, suggested that Cohen's wearing of the jacket in the courthouse was not speech but conduct (an "absurd and immature antic") and therefore not protected by the First Amendment.

    The second paragraph of Blackmun's dissent noted that the Supreme Court of California construed section 415 in In re Bushman 1 Cal.3d 767, 83 Cal.Rptr. 375 (Cal, 1970), which was decided after the Court of Appeal of California's decision in Cohen v. California and the Supreme Court of California's denial of review. Blackmun wrote that the case "ought to be remanded to the California Court of Appeal for reconsideration in the light of the subsequently rendered decision by the State's highest tribunal in Bushman."

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  • 4 years ago

    Cohen V California

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