Federal judge upholds Jury Nullification; kills FBI sting against informing jurors
The FBI’s case was strained nonsense, and thankfully a federal judge upheld the true law about jury nullification.
An elderly activist has the right to pass out literature outside courthouses urging jurors to reach verdicts based on their consciences, even if the findings contradict the letter of the law, a federal judge ruled.
The concept of nullification allows jurors to acquit criminal defendants who are technically guilty if they believe the person does not deserve to be punished. It dates back to 17th century England and is also accepted in the U.S. Constitution.
Prosecutors believe, however, that promotion of this right to jurors constitutes a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1504, which prohibits influencing a juror by writing.
From October 2009 to May 2010, 80-year-old Julian Heicklin stood outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan with a sign that said “Jury Info,” handing out pamphlets from the Fully Informed Jury Association.
The FBI indicted Heicklen for criminal jury tampering after he handed the form to an FBI agent posing as a juror.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood transcribed the alleged conversation while dismissing the indictment Thursday.
Wood said Heicklen correctly understood his legal rights.
“The statute thus prohibits a defendant from trying to influence a juror upon any case or point in dispute before that juror by means of a written communication in relation to that case or that point in dispute,” the 27-page order states. “It also prohibits a defendant from trying to influence a juror’s actions or decisions pertaining to that juror’s duties, but only if the defendant made that communication in relation to a case or point in dispute before that juror. The statute therefore squarely criminalizes efforts to influence the outcome of a case, but exempts the broad categories of journalistic, academic, political, and other writings that discuss the roles and responsibilities of jurors in general, as well as innocent notes from friends and spouses encouraging jurors to arrive on time or to rush home, to listen closely or to deliberate carefully, but with no relation to the outcome of a particular case.”
And according to the New York Times, the victorious Heicklin acted as his own lawyer in the case!
Mr. Heicklen expressed pleasure at the ruling. “Not just for me,” he said. “I think it’s a major decision for the country.”