The Man Arrested for Praising Jesus
Lester Packingham’s Facebook post is headed for the Supreme Court
By Andrew Cohen, The Marshall Project
In “Case in Point,” Andrew Cohen examines a single case or character that sheds light on the criminal justice system. An audio version of Case in Point is broadcast with The Takeaway, a public radio show from WNYC, Public Radio International, The New York Times, and WGBH-Boston Public Radio.
Lester Gerard Packingham was having a really good day back on April 27, 2010. The North Carolina man had just learned that a traffic ticket against him had been dismissed, so he logged onto his Facebook account and gleefully told the world: “Man God is Good! How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started? No fine, no court costs, no nothing spent… Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thanks Jesus.”
At the same time, Brian Schnee, a police officer in Durham, was doing his job, working to identify registered sex offenders in the state who were accessing sites like Facebook. He came across Packingham’s post and recognized the face but not the name on the page, “J.r. Gerrard.” Because Schnee knew Packingham to be a sex offender the officer ...