Gregory Lee Johnson (defendant) burned an American flag during a political demonstration at the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas. The State of Texas (plaintiff) charged Johnson with desecration of a venerated object in violation of a state statute. Johnson was convicted, sentenced to one year in prison, and fined $2,000. Johnson appealed his conviction. The appellate court upheld Johnson's conviction, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed. The Court of Criminal Appeals treated Johnson's conduct as protected symbolic speech and ultimately held that punishing Johnson for burning the flag during a political protest was not consistent with the First Amendment. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.