A federal judge has dismissed the case against for distributing pamphlets outside a New York City court advocating jury nullification.
Retired chemistry professor Julian P. Heicklen was indicted in 2010 after he held a “Jury Info” sign and gave out the brochures arguing for nullification, which asks jurors to ignore laws they disagree with and acquit those accused of breaking the laws, the New York Times reported on its City Room blog.
In a 27-page opinion filed Thursday, Judge Kimba M. Wood wrote, “...the Court holds that a person violates the statute only when he knowingly attempts to influence the action or decision of a juror upon an issue or matter pending before that juror or pertaining to that juror’s duties by means of written communication made in relation to a specific case pending before that juror or in relation to a point in dispute between the parties before that juror.”
Federal prosecutors argued Heicklen’s activities were attempts to influence a jury. The judge, however, found juries could easily disregard pamphlets and follow a judge’s instructions.
"It is not the duty of the jury to uphold the law. It is the jury's duty to see that justice is done," one pamphlet said, according to Reuters.
If convicted, Heicklen could have faced up to six months in prison. He represented himself, with the help of two court-appointed attorneys. Assistant Federal Defender Sabrina P. Shroff, one of the attorneys, said they were relieved by the dismissal.
Heicklen plans to continue distributing his jury nullification literature outside the federal courthouse, he said.
“One small step for a shabby old man, but a giant leap for justice and our country,” the 80-year-old Heicklen said in an e-mail late Thursday.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, which prosecuted the case, could not be reached Thursday night.
Heicklen, a Professor Emeritus at Pennsylvania State University, in District 37 under the tagline “More Freedom. Less Trenton.”