Michigan Court of Appeals Reverses Conviction of Detroit Area Artist

The Michigan Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of a Detroit area artist who got into trouble over a mural on the exterior wall of his studio.

Roseville artist Ed Stross’ mural was a parody of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Man.” It depicted Eve with a bare breast and had the word “love” written on it. Roseville officials who protested the mural said Stross wasn’t supposed to use lettering, and an ordinance prohibits depicting genitalia. The mural has since been partially whitewashed.

The Court previously rejected defendant’s assertion that the genitalia restriction infringed on his First Amendment-protected exercise of
free speech, but found that the lettering ban did amount to “an unconstitutional regulation of speech, infringing on defendant’s First Amendment protections.”
City of Roseville v Stross, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued February 21, 2008 (Docket No. 271764). However, our Supreme Court reversed on the ground that defendant had untimely challenged the constitutionality of the variance, and remanded to us for consideration of defendant’s remaining appellate contentions. City of Roseville v Stross, 482 Mich 979; 755 NW2d 187 (2008).

The court ordered a new trial because it was unclear whether the jury convicted Stross of writing the word “love” or painting the breast. The Court found that because the conviction could have rested on the unconstitutional theory of prosecution, the case had to reversed. To read the Detroit New’s coverage of the case,
click here. To read the decision, click here. To see the offending mural, click here.