The Minnesota Supreme Court handed down an important ruling July 12 that reversed the convictions of pro-life protesters Ron Rudnick and Luke Otterstad.
Rudnick and Otterstad were convicted by a lower court for displaying large signs on an overpass on two occasions in the Twin Cities suburb of Anoka, Minnesota just weeks before the 2004 national elections.
One sign displayed a large color photo of the aborted infant, "Baby Malachi". Next to it was a large handwritten sign that branded a local Congressional candidate as "pro-abortion."
On both occasions, the pro-lifers were arrested and jailed by Anoka police, who also took their signs. Charges of "criminal nuisance" and a violation of Anoka's sign ordinance were upheld by a trial judge. Stiff fines and prison sentences were imposed. Chicago's Thomas More Society was asked to help and underwrote an appeal.
Appellate judges upheld both convictions, but Minnesota's Supreme Court allowed a further appeal. Oral arguments were held in November, and last week the court ruled that the prosecution had not proven the signs a criminal "nuisance" or that Anoka's sign ordinance even applied.
Two other justices agreed with Justice Alan Page, who wrote in his concurrence that defendants' First Amendment rights were violated as the prosecution had been "content-based" – aimed at the pro-life message.