Self-portrait by Ryan D

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Date: 2002

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Painting


Artist: Ryan D

Confronting Bodies: Administration of the school

Date of Action: July 2002

Location: Sacramento, CA

Description of Artwork: Ryan D. had been cited by officer Lori MacPhail for possession of marijuana after she found him off-campus during school hours and conducted a pat-down search. A month after that incident, Ryan turned in a project for a painting, which depicted a person wearing a green hooded sweatshirt discharging a hand gun at the back of the head of a female peace officer wearing a uniform with badge No. 67 - the same number worn by MacPhail. The officer had blood on her hair and pieces of her flesh and face were being blown away and the shooter bore a resemblance to Ryan.

The Incident: When the art teacher saw the painting - after instructing the students they could not paint violent imagery - she decided it was "scary" and "disturbing" and alerted school administrators, who, in turn, alerted police. In juvenile court, the boy testified that the painting was simply an expression of his feelings and that he did not expect MacPhail to see it.

Results of Incident: Ryan was nonetheless found guilty of making a threat by Butte County Superior Court Judge Ann H. Rutherford and placed on home probation. However a panel of the Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal unanimously overturned the 15-year-old's conviction for threatening the officer, concluding that the boy's expression of his anger through an art class project was too ambiguous to convey criminal intent.

Source: San Francisco Daily Journal, www.thefirstamendment.org