Mark Iannicelli was arrested and charged with seven counts of jury tampering, a felony, for passing out fliers in front of a Denver Courthouse. Iannicelli set up a booth with a sign that read “Jury Info” and distributed fliers that educated potential jurors about their right to nullify.
Jury nullification allows for juries to follow their conscience and return a “Not Guilty” verdict even when they believe that the law has technically been violated. Judges rarely, if ever, instruct juries of their right to nullify, instead judges simply provide them with the elements of the law leading jurors to believe that if the elements are satisfied they must convict. The fact is that if jurors believe that the law is unfair or that the defendant does not deserve to be punished they may return a “Not Guilty” verdict regardless of whether they believe that the elements of the crime have been satisfied. This process allows jurors to sit in judgment of the morality and legitimacy of laws as part of their judgment of the defendant – an important but widely unknown function of juries.
It seems to me that Iannicelli was well within his First Amendment free speech protections by passing out true information in a public place but the fact that he was reaching out to jurors with a sign that said “Jury Info” may have pushed him over the threshold into tampering territory. Ironically, if he goes to trial, even if his actions satisfy the elements of the law of jury tampering his jury could decide to exercise their right to nullify and decline to convict him.
One thing is for sure, his arrest was not in vein. News outlets reporting his story of the man who was arrested for disseminating true information about citizen’s rights has gotten his message across to thousands more than the people he could reach in front of the Denver courthouse. Now more people are aware of jurors’ right to consult their personal moral compasses and do what they believe is right instead of strictly adhering to the cut-and-dry jury instructions.
Seems like something Jay-Z should rap about …