Eminem Lyrics Cited in Supreme Court Free Speech Case

Man accused of threatening his wife on Facebook with status updates inspired by the rapper.

Rap music is once again at the center of a constitutional debate, and this time social media is in the loop as an accomplice.

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case (arguments started Monday, Dec. 1) about a Pennsylvania man who was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for apparently threatening his estranged wife via Facebook.

"There's one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts," Anthony Elonis posted as a status update under the pseudonym "Tone Dougie," according to XXL.

Elonis maintains that he was simply expressing emotions, not intentions to act. His lawyers say that he was influenced by Eminem, whose favorite pastime seems to be lyrically threatening people.

The wife testified that regardless of what his intentions were, she feared for her life.

The First Amendment issue in the case is not unlike the courtroom debates of 2 Live Crew's music in the '90s and the more recent one that may land San Diego rapper Tiny Doo in jail for life. However, federal laws on threats must also be considered. 

“How does one prove what’s in somebody else’s mind?” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked. “In this case, the standard was, ‘Would a reasonable person think that the words would put someone in fear?’ and reasonable people can make that judgment. But how would the government prove whether this threat in the mind of the threatener was genuine?”

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(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

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