Jun. 23, 2008  

SPJ Disappointed in Miller Conviction

Leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists said the are disappointed and concerned by Wednesday’s conviction and harsh sentencing of Miami freelance photographer Carlos Miller — who was found guilty of resisting arrest without violence during a jury trial.

Miller, who was arrested in February 2007 by Miami police after photographing officers on a public street, was sentenced by Miami County Court Judge Jose Fernandez to one year of probation, 100 hours of community service, anger management classes and more than $500 in court costs. The prosecution recommended just three months of probation, 50 hours of community service, anger management classes and court costs.

Miller wrote in his blog that Fernandez had “extreme contempt” for him, due in part to Fernandez’s disapproval of Miller’s body language and demeanor during the trial. The blog states that Fernandez also did not approve that Miller was blogging about the trial. This combination of disrespectful conduct is what Miller says led to the harsh sentence.

“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.”

Miller was also charged with, but found not guilty of, disobeying a police officer and disorderly conduct.

SPJ first supported Miller’s case after his arrest in 2007 by granting him $1,000 from its Legal Defense Fund — which aids journalists in defending the freedom of speech and press guaranteed by the First Amendment. In November, the full SPJ board voted to grant another $2,000 to help pay for Miller’s defense. For more information, or to donate to the LDF, please visit www.spj.org/ldf.asp

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.

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