FIJA Seeks Injunction Against Denver Arrests for Free Speech
Helena, MT—The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) has signed on as a plaintiff to a complaint seeking an injunction to bar the Denver Police Department from any further arrests at the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse of juror rights educators handing out FIJA brochures and other jury nullification information. The complaint was filed today on behalf of FIJA and fellow plaintiffs Eric Verlo and Janet Matzen by Denver civil rights attorney David Lane of the firm Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP.
In light of recent arrests of and felony jury tampering charges leveled against juror rights educators Mark Iannicelli and Eric Brandt for handing out such information, FIJA is gravely concerned that the voices of juror rights educators are being chilled by threat of unjust arrest and fallacious “jury tampering” charges for general educational outreach.
“It is not surprising that government officials would fear jurors being fully informed about all the options available to them, including their right to conscientiously acquit by jury nullification. There’s clearly an incentive for a system whose lifeblood is a steady stream of convictions and mass incarceration to disempower jurors from delivering just verdicts by voting Not Guilty because the law itself or its application is unjust,” said FIJA Executive Director Kirsten Tynan.
“We fear for other juror rights educators being similarly endangered as Mr. Iannicelli and Mr. Brandt have been for exercising their First Amendment-guaranteed rights. The Supporting Affidavit for the arrest warrant in Mr. Brandt’s case is particularly worrying as it suggests that the Denver District Attorney’s office has determined that even the mere ‘language contained in the fliers’ constitutes jury tampering on its own,” said Tynan.
FIJA does not advocate for or against any case in progress, but merely seeks to fully inform everyone of all their options when serving on juries. This includes the option to conscientiously acquit when a just verdict requires it by voting Not Guilty, even if they believe the law has technically been broken, without fear of punishment for their verdict.
The FIJA national office plans to host a Jury Rights Day celebration on the plaza outside the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse in Denver this year, assuming it can be conducted safely without threat of arrest or charges.
Each year since 1991, FIJA has rallied juror rights educators nationwide for educational outreach at courthouses nationwide and other appropriate locations on and around September 5, known as Jury Rights Day. Jury Rights Day commemorates the famous jury nullification case of the trial of William Penn and William Mead in 1670, which helped ground in English common law the right of the jury to deliver verdicts from conscience without being punished, as well as our rights to freedom of speech, association, and religion. In 2014, FIJA listed 30 Jury Rights Day events, mostly at courthouses, which were held without any arrests reported to FIJA.
On this day of celebration and commemoration, juror educators hope to create many fully informed jurors who understand and are prepared to act on the knowledge that:
● Jurors cannot be punished for their verdicts.
● Jurors have the right to deliver a general verdict and are not required to explain the reason for their verdict.
● Jurors have the legal authority and the ethical duty to consult their consciences and to render a just verdict, even if it requires setting aside the law when strictly enforcing it would be unjust.
“While the Denver DA’s office seems intent on creating countless fully informed jurors nationwide with the publicity surrounding the erroneous arrests of and charges against Mr. Iannicelli and Mr. Brandt, we would really like everyone to be able to exercise their First Amendment rights to teach others about jury nullification without fear of being abused by police and prosecutors under color of law,” Tynan said.
About the Fully Informed Jury Association
The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, nonpartisan, educational organization headquartered in Helena, Montana. Focusing on issues involving the role of the jury in our justice system, FIJA seeks to preserve the full function of the jury as the final arbiter in our courts of law by informing everyone about their rights, powers and responsibilities in delivering just verdicts when serving as jurors. The organization does not advocate for or against any case in progress, but rather seeks to fully inform everyone of all their options when serving on juries. This includes the option to conscientiously acquit when a just verdict requires it by voting Not Guilty, even if they believe the law has technically been broken, without fear of punishment for their verdict.
FIJA’s national office conducts its campaign solely through educational outreach programs and materials. A variety of brochures and other materials are available for free download by anyone from the online Library or can be purchased through the online Media Catalog. Many juror rights educators use these brochures for general educational outreach at courthouses, at fairs and festivals, at public speaking engagements, and so on.