Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, with his erroneous charges and prosecution of juror rights educators Mark Iannicelli and Eric Brandt, is creating countless fully informed jurors. In just the last 24 hours, I have received Google alerts showing what a great job Morrissey is doing of getting the information we teach—previously only shared very locally at the courthouse—out to the wider Denver community.

Yesterday, The Denver Post Editorial Board published an opinion piece informing Denver residents that:

Jury nullification is not a crime, Denver

The district attorney’s office says the two arrested men were targeting actual jury pool members. Yet even if that were true, so what? If they were not advocating a specific course of action in a specific trial, how could they be guilty of trying “to influence a juror’s vote,” as Colorado’s law defines tampering?

Their jury nullification literature, as it happens, merely offered general statements, such as, “Juror nullification is your right to refuse to enforce bad laws and bad prosecutions.”

Four years ago, prosecutors in New York City charged a retired chemistry professor with jury tampering after he stood outside a federal courthouse handing out information on jury nullification. But Judge Kimba M. Wood of federal district court wouldn’t buy it. She ruled that prosecutors needed to show the protester meant to influence jurors in a specific case, and dismissed all charges.

Denver officials should be held to no less of a standard.

Click through for the entire editorial, which not only argues for our First Amendment right to share our literature, even with prospective jurors, but also acknowledges that jury nullification is a mainstream idea and legal to exercise as a juror—”not some crank theory concocted out of the blue”. (A couple of historical corrections needed in the article: John Peter Zenger and Andrew (not Alexander) Hamilton.)

Additionally, Mr. Morrissey has also managed to make this such a newsworthy event that it has been reported on television as well on the Denver CBS affiliate:

Men Arrested For Jury Tampering Argue They Have A Right To Do So

CBS4 in Denver, not only showed our Your Jury Rights: True or False? brochure to all its viewers, but also informed them that “Jury nullification is when a juror believes a defendant is guilty of a crime, but disagrees with the law and returns a not guilty verdict instead.”

If Mr. Morrissey’s intent was to keep jurors in the dark about their full, legal authority to conscientiously acquit via jury nullification, he is failing miserably. The simple fact is that putting this information in the media spreads it to FAR more people and MUCH faster than handing it out at courthouses.

Moreover, if Mr. Morrissey is so short-sighted as to fail to anticipate what will happen if he should push this all the way to trial by jury, it’s going to be interesting to see how a prosecutor is going to deal with what one imagines would certainly be a fully informed jury given that our literature would presumably be in evidence. What kind of rapport can an attorney establish with jurors who realize that his mission in that courtroom is not only to keep them, but ALL jurors, in the dark about their right to vote Not Guilty when they believe the law is unjust or that the prosecutor is unjustly abusing it in cases before them?

photo credit: Janet Matzen