Occupy Denver affiliated jury rights activist Mark Iannicelli was arrested last Monday on seven felony counts of jury tampering after he allegedly distributed educational flyers promoting the concept of jury nullification outside of the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse in Denver, Colorado. Iannicelli reportedly issued the flyers from a booth with a sign reading “Juror Info.”
An arrest affidavit cited by FOX 31 Denver alleged that Iannicelli issued the flyers to “actual and potential jury pool members” and that a death penalty case was underway in the adjacent building.
Authorities released Iannicelli on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond. His next court appearance is set to take place on August 11 at 1:30 p.m.
Jury nullification refers to a discretionary act by a jury in which jurors refuse to hand down a conviction against a guilty defendant under the belief that the conviction or the law itself is fundamentally unjust. However, in most jurisdictions, defense attorneys are prohibited from informing jurors about jury nullification.
In light of this, jury rights advocacy groups like the Fully Informed Jury Association have been working to promote jury nullification to a nationwide audience. Doing so near courthouses can be legally risky, though. In 2010, jury rights activist Julian P. Heicklen was charged with jury tampering for distributing jury nullification flyers from a booth that he had installed outside of a New York City federal court. However, according to The New York Times, Federal District Court Judge Kimba M. Wood threw out the charges against Heicklen, citing the fact that Heicklen’s flyers did not contain any particular information “in relation to a specific case pending before” the juror that read it.
In response to Iannicelli’s arrest, Fully Informed Jury Association’s Kirsten Tynan wrote, “It does not sound likely that the accused’s activity even met the definition of jury tampering. FIJA encourages everyone who is doing general educational outreach at courthouses to be clear that they are not advocating for or against any case in progress, but rather are sharing this information for educational purposes only. What jurors choose to do with that information is up to them. My impression from what I have heard and read so far is that those at this courthouse were aware of this distinction.”
Tynan added, “Nonetheless, it sometimes happens that courthouse officials or law enforcement either are ignorant of the difference between general educational outreach and jury tampering or that they choose to ignore it for the sake of making a nuisance arrest that will interfere with free speech activity they find inconvenient or disagree with. It’s possible that one or the other of these is the case in Denver this week.”
Iannicelli’s arrest reportedly took place on day two of a three-day drive to educate the public about jury nullification, with a previous outreach effort at another Colorado court having occurred without incident.