Schaler was a messed up individual, threatening to kill himself, kill others, hurt himself, heard others, in a mixture thereof. After an involuntary commitment he raised a chainsaw to his neighbor and said some threatening words. When the officer arrived, as officers tend to do in chainsaw wielding situations, Schaler said, “it was obvious that somebody [was] going to die.” He was charged with two counts under the threats to kill provision of the harassment statute.
It is important to note that to steer clear a First Amendment issues, only true threats may be prosecuted and harassment statute. The court failed to instruct as to true threat:
In the context of criminalizing speech, however, the lack of mens rea as to the result is critical. Because the First Amendment limits the statute to proscribing “true threats,” it must be read to reach only those instances “`wherein a reasonable person would foresee that the statement would be interpreted as a serious expression of intention . . . to take the life of another person.” Kilburn, 151 Wn.2d at 43 (emphasis added) (internal punctuation and quotation marks omitted) (quoting Williams, 144 Wn.2d at 208-09). This standard requires the defendant to have some mens rea as to the result of the hearer’s fear:simple negligence. See W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser & Keeton on Torts § 31, at 169 (5th ed. 1984) (describing negligence as the failure to guard against “a risk of [certain] consequences, sufficiently great to lead a reasonable person . . . to anticipate them”). Because the First Amendment requires negligence as to the result but the instructions here required no mens rea as to result, the jury could have convicted Schaler based on something less than a “true threat.” The instructions were therefore in error.
I have to take a minute to address something not all related to the opinion. Here is a man that is obviously in need of continued mental health care. He has overt aggression issues, he has been admitted for those issues against his will, and he continues to have those issues. These issues make him a danger to himself and to the community in which he lives. Yet, rather than get him sustaining treatment for those issues, retrieving temporarily and release him back to the large looming wolf that is society. Rather than treat him, we make him a criminal. There is something inherently wrong with that, and it makes me sad.