The relevant statement in Brown was Senior Airman Brown's announcement to his girlfriend that if her son weren't present, then she would be dead. Since her son was there, was that a contingent threat that wasn't satisfied, thus negating the threat? In a unanimous opinion written by Judge Baker, CAAF says no. Judge Baker offers some vivid imagery along the way, like the crazed axe-wielder in a bar or the small child who "approach[es] a putative victim and coldly stare[s] her down while solemnly stating that he was going to kill her within the next five minutes." Id., slip op. at 11-12. But here's the essence of the requirement for communicating a threat post-Brown:
[E]xamination of threats under Article 134, UCMJ, must pay due regard to any concretely expressed contingency associated with a threat, while remaining aware that all communication takes place within a context that can be determinative of meaning. See, e.g., Cotton, 40 M.J. at 95 ("[b]oth the circumstances of the utterance and the literal language must be considered"); United States v. Gilluly, 13 C.M.A. 458, 461, 32 C.M.R. 458, 461 (1963) ("the surrounding circumstances may so belie or contradict the language of [a seemingly threatening] declaration as to reveal it to be a mere jest or idle banter"). We reaffirm this long-standing principle today. Context gives meaning to literal statements.
Brown, slip op. at 10-11.
So those of you who like to post angry comments on blogs -- and, Klipper, you know who you are -- please put down the axe before typing.