North Carolina’s highest court has refused to hear the appeal of a civil rights leader who was found guilty of trespassing during a 2017 protest inside the Legislative Building.
The state Supreme Court announced on Friday that it had denied the Rev. William Barber II of Goldsboro’s request for judges to reconsider his case and his 2019 trial. The court also granted the state prosecutors’ request. to deny Barber’s attorney’s motion to appeal.
The decisions, which take place after a Court of Appeal decision in December also siding with the state, seems to mean that Barber’s second-degree trespassing conviction is final.
Jurors had found Barber guilty after leading a call-and-response chant with about 50 people outside Senate Leader Phil Berger’s office protesting poor health care spending.
A Court of Appeal judge wrote that Barber’s free speech rights were not harmed by his arrest, saying he “was not expelled from the General Assembly for the content of his words. He was fired for their volume.
Barber, a former NAACP state leader who is now president of the National Breach Fixers Group, said at trial that he was using his “preaching voice” and had a constitutional right to instruct the legislators.
Legislative Building rules “prohibit noise loud enough to impair conversations and disrupt the ability of legislators and their staff to carry out their duties,” the December opinion states.
Barber received a one-day suspended sentence, unsupervised probation, a $200 fine, and 24 hours of community service.
Barber’s attorney wrote to the judges that his client’s case merited review because it was of significant public interest and involved First Amendment legal principles. Since the opinion of the Court of Appeal was unanimous, the court was under no obligation to hear the case.
A Repairers of the Breach spokesperson or attorney did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
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