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Federal Judge Tosses Jury Tampering Charge Against Nullification Advocate

Posted Apr 20, 2012 9:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A jury nullification advocate who distributed leaflets outside the Manhattan federal courthouse has won dismissal of a jury tampering charge aimed at his activities.

U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood said the tampering statute was aimed at people who try to influence a decision in a specific case, the New York Times reports. The defendant, 80-year-old Julian Heicklen, was arrested for passing out brochures advocating the idea that jurors can acquit defendants if they disagree with the laws used to prosecute them.

According to the Times, Wood avoided a First Amendment ruling by basing her decision on the reach of the statute. But an Associated Press story says Wood mentioned the First Amendment in her decision, saying it protects speech concerning judicial proceedings as long as the speech doesn’t prevent fair and impartial justice.

Heicklen represented himself in the case, though he was helped by two lawyers in the federal defender’s office. He told the Times that Wood’s ruling is “a major decision for the country.”

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