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First Amendment

NY Prosecutors Defend Jury Tampering Charges Against Courthouse Protester

Posted Nov 28, 2011 9:43 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A retired chemistry professor who passes out jury nullification brochures outside courthouses claims he has a First Amendment right to do so.

Julian Heicklen, 79, is asserting his right to free speech in defense of jury tampering charges filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, the New York Times reports. Heicklin has stood outside dozens of courthouses in cities across the nation handing out brochures advocating the idea that jurors can acquit defendants if they disagree with the laws used to prosecute them.

Prosecutors argue in a brief that Heicklen’s advocacy is not protected speech because of his intent to target prospective jurors. Heicklen may make his arguments in a public forum, the brief says, but not at a courthouse plaza.

Heicklen, a former professor at Pennsylvania State University, has said he became a nullification activist when he smoked marijuana in public to get arrested and protest marijuana laws. He favors nullification in gambling and drug cases.

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