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Do Feds Have Case Against Man Advocating Jury Nullification?

March 2nd, 2011 by josh farley

The concept of jury nullification has once again made headlines, this time for a retired professor charged by federal prosecutors with jury tampering.

The New York Times had the story Friday: Julian P. Heicklen, a retired chemistry professor from Penn State, has been distributing pamphlets “encouraging jurors to ignore the law if they disagree with it, and to render verdicts based on conscience,” outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan, according to Times writer Benjamin Weiser.

Jury nullification, which you may recall from an incident in early 2010 in Kitsap County Superior Court, is the idea that jurors can ignore the court’s instructions of following the law, and decide guilt or innocence based on their own feelings.

The federal government walks a fine First Amendment line in bringing such charges. But the courts have historically not liked a behavior which, to put it bluntly, undermines their authority.

As the New York Times notes from one source:

“This is classic political advocacy,” Christopher T. Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said of Mr. Heicklen’s pamphleteering. “Unless the government can show that he’s singling out jurors to influence a specific verdict, it’s squarely protected by the First Amendment, and they should dismiss the case.”

I am curious what people around here think of this prosecution, and further, of the concept of jury nullification in general.

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4 Responses to “Do Feds Have Case Against Man Advocating Jury Nullification?”

  1. Robin Says:

    Jury nullification is absolutely a constitutional right. I’ve used it myself once on a case where I sat on a jury. I would absolutely use it on any case where drug possession is the issue as long as no violence was used. I would also use in on some consensual sex cases as long there wasn’t too big of an age discrepancy.
    Our judicial system has just gotten to be so unreliable that people(juries) need to try and get it back under control.

  2. RocKet Says:

    I feel the feds do not have a case in this situation. That being said, I also believe we as citizens do have to obey the laws as written and if called upon to sit as a juror, rule according to the law not the heart, no matter how painful it may be. This can be best described by showing that if you are being tried for a crime (possession of leaf, murder, rape, etc.) Would you want to be tried by a jury thinking with there heart or thinking of the law. Naturally you say the the law because you are not guilty and based on the law it will be proven. But if a juror thinks there are too many murder happening and they want to send a message to the others,they may find your innocent ass guilty,thinking with there heart. Jurors are part of the system, if you do not like the system,don’t cheat it,fix it……..at the polls.

  3. RocKet Says:

    Sorry for the a@@ thing, am passionate about justice.

  4. JDU Says:

    I think the feds have a decent case, but not a great one. I could honestly see it going either way. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

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