Monday, March 26, 2012

Court Pamphleteer Trial Stirs First Amendment Pot

Seal of the United States District Court for t...
Seal of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In U.S. v. Julien Heicklen (Case No. 10-1154), presently before United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Kimba Wood, an 80-year-old retired chemistry professor from Teaneck, N.J, faces a potential six-month jail term for alleged jury tampering based on his distribution of leaflets in a federal court plaza on the subject of jury nullification.

According to wire stories by Associated Press and Reuters, Heicklen gave passers-by a pamphlet addressing jury nullification, the legal doctrine whereby fact-finders disregard a judge's instructions or the weight of the evidence in a case to arrive at a verdict based on their own consciences. His leaflet allegedly urged jurors troubled by the government's conduct in a case or who reject a law underlying charges against a defendant to return a not guilty verdict.

Counsel for the defendant contend Heicklen's leaflet in no way endangers the integrity of the justice system, but the prosecution argues such behavior is unlawful and disruptive of  how courts function. Judge Wood suggested during argument that jurors basing their decisions on ideological beliefs, rather than the evidence before them, poses a threat to the integrity of the trial system, the wire service articles reported.

Because the defendant's actions occurred on federal property where potential jurors might be influenced, prosecutors claimed, Heicklen's prosecution does not violate his First Amendment rights.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment