Virginia v. Black
|Virginia v. Black
|Supreme Court of the United States
|April 7, 2003
|Supreme Court of Virginia
A Virginia statute made cross-burning a prima facie evidence of the intent to intimidate with a racial bias.Black (a Ku Klux Klan member) burned a cross on private property with the consent of the owner in Virginia.
Black was criminally convicted of intent to intimidate because the jury instruction was that cross-burning itself established the intent to intimidate.The Supreme Court of Virginia overturned Black's conviction.
Cross burning isn't itself evidence of intent to intimidate.Nevertheless, a state may enact a statute to prohibit cross burning if the act is carried out with the intent to intimidate.
Cross burning as an exercise of political speech is okay.Cross burning as a true threat intended to cause physical harm isn't allowed.