Guy Passing Out Pamphlets In Front Of Court Indicted For 'Jury Tampering'
from the jury-nullification dept
Paul Alan Levy was the first of a few folks to send over the news that a guy named Julian Heicklen, a retired Penn State chemistry professor, has been indicted for charges of jury tampering for handing out pamphlets about jury nullification in front of courts. Just a month ago, we had a related (but different) story about a judge in Florida banning handing out such pamphlets, which raised a number of very serious First Amendment questions. In this case, it went beyond just a ban, as the guy was actually indicted by the court, leading to more serious First Amendment questions.
It should be admitted that the guy appears to be… a bit of a crackpot in how he’s responded to attempts to stop him from handing out these pamphlets, including collapsing to the ground and having to be taken to a hospital (and later suing the hospitals). He also apparently refused to issue any plea in this latest case, and at one point simply sat there silently looking down, leading the judge to ask if he was asleep (he was not).
That said, there are serious First Amendment issues raised by this. Jury tampering laws are designed to protect against someone tampering with specific juries, trying to influence the direct outcome. But that’s not at all what was happening in either of these two stories. In both cases, it just involved people handing out pamphlets to the general population outside a courtroom, explaining the concepts of jury nullification. That should not be seen as tampering at all. I mean, it’s just as easy for someone to sit at home and read about jury nullification online. Why should it be illegal to tell people about it in front of a courthouse?