Fully Informed Jury Association

Are you fully informed about jury nullification?

FIJA in the News & FIJActivist | 13 Aug 2012

Jury nullification education still barely ‘legal’ in USA, rules judge


Jury nullification education still barely ‘legal’ in USA, rules judge

U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood said 80-year-old Julian Heicklin, who was arrested by FBI agents for passing out pamphlets marked “Jury Info” from an organization known as the Fully Informed Jury Association to an undercover agent, was within his legal rights under law to do so. Prosecutors had argued that Heicklin was in violation of U.S. law, which prohibits influencing jurors through written communication.

“Heicklen advocates passionately for the right of jurors to determine the law as well as the facts,” Wood wrote. “The pamphlets state that a juror has not just the responsibility to determine the facts of a case before her on the basis of the evidence presented, but also the power to determine the law according to her conscience.”

Judge Wood distinguishes between general juror education and attempting to influence the outcome of a particular case:

“The statute thus prohibits a defendant from trying to influence a juror upon any case or point in dispute before that juror by means of a written communication in relation to that case or that point in dispute,” the 27-page order says.

“It also prohibits a defendant from trying to influence a juror’s actions or decisions pertaining to that juror’s duties, but only if the defendant made that communication in relation to a case or point in dispute before that juror,” the order continues. “The statute therefore squarely criminalizes efforts to influence the outcome of a case, but exempts the broad categories of journalistic, academic, political, and other writings that discuss the roles and responsibilities of jurors in general, as well as innocent notes from friends and spouses encouraging jurors to arrive on time or to rush home, to listen closely or to deliberate carefully, but with no relation to the outcome of a particular case.”

We remind all activists that FIJA outreach is general outreach. FIJA activists give literature to anyone who is willing to accept it without regard for whether or not they are or are not involved in a case. This is our standard protocol whether we are distributing brochures at fairs and festivals, at meetings, on the sidewalk, near a courthouse, or anywhere else.


Jury Rights Day | 02 Aug 2012

Jury Rights Day Banner Featured on Wisconsin Raw Milk Association Website


As we gear up for Jury Rights Day on 5 September, we will be featuring outreach opportunities for you to spread the message about jurors’ rights so that more jurors are fully informed when they serve on juries. Today we are highlighting the website of the Wisconsin Raw Milk Association. Click through and scroll to the bottom of their home page to see one of FIJA’s Jury Rights Day web banners with a link back to our website.

Who is the Wisconsin Raw Milk Association? In their own words:

When this group began, we didn’t have an official name; just an online chat group to help busy producers come together and support one another. Shortly thereafter, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection [DATCP] began a calculated and strategic shut down of dairy farmers across the state. Their offense? Working within the present law system to legally sell fresh, unprocessed milk to the consumers who were asking for it. The DATCP quietly amended such laws to their own interpretations and were clear to hunt down and threaten any farmer not selling milk to a pasteurization plant. They even targeted small dairies with fewer than ten cows that did not sell commercially.

Who are we, you ask?
Nothing but the finest folks from Wisconsin only wishing to have their right to food choice recognized by law, in order to stop harassment from DATCP and other government regulators. Let this be the Dairy State in its purest form. Help Wisconsin lead the way in the food revolution!

Featuring a Jury Rights Day banner on your website is an easy and free way to spread the word about Jury Rights Day and jurors’ rights. Simply download the free graphic of your choice from our online Library, upload it to your website, and link back to FIJA. Then let us know and we may feature your website here, in our newsletter, or elsewhere.


eBulletin | 18 Jul 2012

RIP Lawrence Burnham Dodge 1942-2012


First FIJA Board Meeting

First FIJA Board Meeting
Front row, left to right: Larry Dodge, Don Doig, Honey Lanham Dodge, Larry Pratt
Back row, left to right: Gary Dusseljee, Iloilo Jones, Kathy Ballard

Larry Dodge, who co-founded FIJA with Don Doig in 1989, escaped on Tuesday, 17 July 2012, from the police state he spent much of his adult life trying to put back into its box. A staunch libertarian and defender of the Common Law and free markets, Larry lived his life according to his conscience. His interests and efforts spoke consistently of a man devoted to justice, liberty, and individual freedom. He and his wife Honey “escaped” the United States for several years, making their homes in countries they found more free and unfettered for the peaceful and productive. They returned in recent times to be closer to family.

Larry, throughout his escapes and returns, continued to share insights and commentary with us here at FIJA, long after his retirement, often sending along his views on various political and judicial events in this country. His insights, early vision for FIJA, and his indefatigable efforts on behalf of the Constitution and Bill of Rights reached into many areas of freedom, from politics to political asylum.

I first met Larry in 1990, when he and Don met with me at the D-M Restaurant (for those of you not brand readers, that’s D Bar M) in Drummond, Montana, where we began to lay out the plans for the organization, its board, and first board meeting of FIJA, the growing organization which they had begun about a year earlier, throwing themselves into the message and mission with energetic and passionate zeal. They were both on fire with the message of independent, conscientious, informed jurors!

There is a photo of our first FIJA board meeting on our web site. Honey was there, too. It was a boost to spend time working with them, and we enjoyed many days and evenings at FIJA’s initial small headquarters in Helmville, Montana, talking about liberty, truth, and justice, and taking turns filling the wood stove on cold winter afternoons. Larry had his first bout of poor health while still in Helmville. An air ambulance was called to fly him down the Blackfoot River to Missoula. He recovered and eagerly jumped back into the effort. He was not done with his work. He never stopped being a freedom fighter.

Larry and Doug were friends, having met in Alaska, where Doug also met Honey. Doug joined FIJA in 1993, and he and Larry often corresponded, honing their sharp minds against each other’s thinking. Doug enjoyed Larry and spoke of him often.

Larry’s passion, intelligence, and vision will be missed by all of us here at FIJA, and throughout the far-flung community of freedom fighters around the globe. We have lost a good friend. We all send love and sympathy to Honey, with lots of hugs.

We carry on.

Bon Voyage, Larry. We are all missing you already.

Much Love,


Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 09 Jul 2012

Jury Can Help Prevent ‘Raw Milk Prohibition’


Brian Wickert,certified biodynamic and organic farmer and president of the Wisconsin Raw Milk Association, discusses the power of the jury to protect freedom of food choice:

Brian Wickert: Jury can help prevent ‘raw milk prohibition’ here

On Sept. 24, Loganville dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger will be tried before a jury in Sauk County Circuit Court on four criminal misdemeanor counts accusing him of violating the state Food and Dairy Code. The case has drawn widespread attention in Wisconsin, with Vernon’s supporters rallying to his cause.

A question that has been raised about the trial is: Can the jury hearing the case legally engage in jury nullification and return a verdict of “not guilty” even if the facts and the law of the case point toward guilt? The answer is, according to our attorneys, an emphatic “yes.”

Click through for the entire opinion.


FIJA in the News & Jury Nullification | 02 Jul 2012

Jury Nullification Law Signed by New Hampshire Governor


With all the buzz and anticipation surrounding the final rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court the past week, there has been little attention to an interesting legal development in New Hampshire:  On June 18, Governor John Lynch (no relation)  signed HB 146 into law and it becomes effective on January 1, 2013.   HB 146  concerns “the right of a jury to judge the application of the law in relationship to the facts in controversy.”  It’s popularly known as “the jury nullification bill.”  In this post, I will try to explain what impact this new law may have in the  New Hampshire courts.

By way of background, Cato co-published the most comprehensive book on this subject back in 1998, Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine by Clay Conrad.  So pick that up if you’re interested in the full legal and historical treatment.  If you’re not ready for the book, do check out this book review by University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds.

For purposes of this post, I am going to sidestep the question of whether or not jury nullification is a good idea.   My purpose is not to “make the case for HB 146.”   Rather, my purpose is to briefly explain what jury nullification is, provide a very brief history of the law on that subject, and, finally, explain how the recently enacted statute  in New Hampshire may alter existing law and practices there.

Read the rest here.


Jury Nullification | 20 Apr 2012

Jury Statute Not Violated by Protester, Judge Rules


Jury Statute Not Violated by Protester, Judge Rules

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the dismissal of an indictment against the professor, Julian P. Heicklen, who had been charged with jury tampering for advocating the controversial position known as jury nullification while outside the courthouse.

Mr. Heicklen had repeatedly stood with a “Jury Info” sign and handed out brochures supporting nullification, the view that jurors who disagree with a law may ignore their oaths and vote to acquit a defendant accused of violating it.

Prosecutors said such advocacy, “directed as it is to jurors, would be both criminal and without constitutional protections no matter where it occurred.”

But the judge, Kimba M. Wood of Federal District Court, wrote that a person violated the jury tampering statute only when he or she knowingly tried to influence a juror’s decision through a written communication “made in relation to a specific case pending before that juror.”

Judge Wood added that she would not “stretch the interpretation” of the statute to cover speech that was “not meant to influence” a juror’s actions in a specific case.

Note that FIJA’s guidelines for activists (.pdf) include this important point- activists should conduct general outreach activity and avoid even the appearance of being associated with a particular case. If you would like to read the entire Opinion and Order from Judge Wood, please click here.


FIJA Calendar | 16 Apr 2012

Jury Nullification Talk and Q&A at Univeristy of Montana on Thursday, 19 April


Kirsten Tynan, of the Fully Informed Jury Association, will discuss jurors’ rights and jury nullification, the power by which everyday Americans can protect themselves as well as defendants against unjust prosecutions and corrupt laws. The presentation will be followed by an question and answer period. This event is open to the public.

Date and Time:
Thursday, 19 April 2012 at 6:30 pm
The University of Montana in Missouala, MT
University Center Room 326


Function of Juries & Jurors Doing Justice | 04 Apr 2012

Judge Rejects Prosecutorial Request to Bar Free Speech Defense in Occupy Trial and Other Prosecutorial Shenanigans


We recently brought you news of a case in Iowa in which a jury nullified a local rule, deciding in favor of the defendant on the basis that he was exercising his First Amendment rights. The jury ruled that the defendant’s exercise of his freedom of speech on public property took precedence over a locally imposed curfew. In a bizarre twist, prosecutors had asked the jury to nullify the superior law, the United States Constitution, in favor of the inferior local curfew. Having been rebuked by the jury, who correctly upheld the superior law, prosecutors apparently went back to the drawing board to try and secure a conviction in the next such case they tried.

Judge Asked to Bar Free Speech Defense in Occupy Trial

Polk County prosecutors are trying stronger tactics in an Occupy Des Moines trespassing trial scheduled to begin Monday, arguing that jurors should be barred from considering “free speech rights.”

Earlier this month, former state Rep. Ed Fallon was acquitted in the first of several trespassing trials when a jury decided that the First Amendment outranks a state Capitol curfew.

Polk County prosecutor Jeff Noble filed paperwork arguing essentially that a jury of “laypeople” could not be trusted to decide in favor of the inferior law over the superior law:

The documents cite a Des Moines Register story that quoted a juror in the Fallon trial explaining the verdict by saying that “the Constitution supersedes all state laws and regulations.”

Because jurors believe such things, “using instructions which characterize the defendant’s actions as an exercise of constitutional rights effectively wraps the defendant in the flag and dictates the outcome of the trial,” according to Noble’s motion. “Other jurors in future cases may not use the same problematic logic as the jurors quoted above. But the mere potential for the jury nullification discussed above is the exact reason why it is the court’s role — not the jury’s — to determine questions of constitutional law.”

These are the kind of statements that would normally be cause for a high school student to fail a Government 101 course. Based on this ignorance, however, Noble requested that District Associate Judge Romonda Belcher bar any evidence or argument that free speech was a justification for the violation with which the defendants are charged. Click through for the disturbing details of Noble’s power-damaged thought process.

We are pleased to report that on Monday this week, Judge Belcher rejected these arguments.

Testimony starts today in first Occupy trial since Fallon acquittal

In the current case, prosecutors failed Monday to convince District Associate Judge Romonda Belcher that she, and not jurors, should rule on whether protesters can legally trespass in the name of free speech. Belcher instead ruled, as in Fallon’s case, that it’ll be up to jurors to decide.

Belcher has reasoned that state law, as spelled out in a 1976 Iowa Supreme Court decision, allows room for protesters to be found “not guilty” if they can show they were reasonably exercising their constitutional rights to speech at the time of arrest. The question of what’s reasonable rightly belongs to the jury, according to Belcher, because Iowa’s law defines trespassing as entering or remaining on property “without justification.” So the lack of justification is part of the crime that prosecutors have to prove to jurors to win conviction.

Upon having this tactic rebuffed by the judge, Assistant Polk County Attorney Kevin Hathaway then wanted to change the charges. The trespassing statute under which the defendants were charged specifically states that their presence was only trespassing if done “without justification”. When Judge Belcher refused to take exercise of First Amendment rights off the table as a potential justification for the jury to consider and essentially hand prosecutors the case for free, Hathaway wanted to amend the charges so that the defendants would be tried under a different rule that does not mention the potential defense of justification. The defendants may not have been charged under this alternate statute because it includes another troublesome element that the prosecution must prove- intent to harm the property upon which the alleged trespass occurred.

Drake University law professor and defense attorney Sally Frank called him out on his shenanigans and Judge Belcher agreed:

“It would be like saying a speeding ticket and a stop sign (violation) are the same general thing because they’re both in the traffic code,” Frank said. “This isn’t an error or omission (in the charging documents). This is, ‘We lost an argument, and now we want to get something else.’ ”

As government-paid employees, prosecutors have an incentive to deliver results in favor of government- that is, convictions -rather than to impartially uphold justice. This is particularly evident in this case where prosecutors keep trying to change the game whenever they are ruled against in order to try and get the upper hand in court. They don’t seem to care on what charges the defendants are convicted or whether they are allowed to defend themselves, so long as the prosecution prevails on SOMETHING and can add another win to its record.

Defense attorneys also have an incentive to deliver the results desired by their clients by securing not guilty verdicts on their behalf. Even judges, as paid employees of government whose livelihoods depend on keeping the courts full, have an inherent conflict of interest between their own interests and justice for all.

This is why independent juries are a part of our judicial system. Jurors do not have a financial or other interest in upholding one side or the other. They do not make their living off the system, but they do have to live with the precedent set by their decision. Therefore, they have a strong incentive is to deliver a just verdict, not only to protect the defendant in the case at hand, but to protect themselves as well as their families and neighbors from abusive prosecutorial aggression.


FIJActivist & Volunteer | 16 Mar 2012

Spring Activist Special: FIJA T-Shirts on Sale!


T-Shirt Sale Never mind that I drove home the other day through a blizzard. Last Saturday the weather here in Montana was GORGEOUS! That means that many of you activists are gearing up for outreach efforts outdoors now that warmer weather is arriving.

To help you kick off your activities, we are offering a Spring Activist Special on our FIJA T-Shirts. With the 20% discount, our white “Know Your Rights” t-shirt is just $16 for sizes M, L and XL, and $18 for XXL, and our yellow “We Are Everywhere” shirt is just $12 for sizes M, L and XL, and $14 for XXL. We are also throwing in 25 free copies of our newest full color brochure, Fresh Air for Justice, to help you get started. T-Shirt Sale

We don’t carry small size t-shirts in our current offerings because they are so rarely ordered. However, if you need a size small t-shirt, please call us in the office at (406) 442-7800 and ask for Kirsten. We do have a few of our older t-shirts in designs we no longer offer on the catalog available, and we may be able to find a size small t-shirt for you among them.


Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 14 Mar 2012

The Hershberger Trial and Jury Nullification


In a recent article, Peter Kennedy discusses the full legal power of the jury, specifically with respect to the prosecution of Wisconsin raw milk dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger:

The Hershberger Trial and Jury Nullification

Sometime later this year Loganville, Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger will be tried before a jury in Sauk County Circuit Court on four criminal misdemeanor counts accusing him of violating the state Food and Dairy Code. The case has drawn widespread attention in Wisconsin, with Hershberger’s supporters rallying to his cause.

A question that has been raised about the trial is: can the jury hearing the case legally engage in jury nullification and return a verdict of not guilty on the charges no matter what the facts and the law of the case are? The answer is yes.

Wisconsin courts have recognized that juries “have always had the inherent and fundamental power to return a verdict of not guilty irrespective of the evidence” [1]. They have acknowledged that juries have “nullification” powers “in the sense that they may acquit a defendant in a criminal case on the basis of extraneous considerations, even when the defendant may be objectively guilty in light of the facts of the case and the courts instructions” [2].

In the case of State v. Thomas, a Wisconsin Appellate Court explained the reason jury nullification is necessary:

The purpose of a jury is to guard against the exercise of arbitrary power – to make available the common-sense judgment of the community as a hedge against the overzealous or mistaken prosecutor and in preference to the professional or . . . biased response of a judge. [3]

Click through for the entire article.


Function of Juries & Jurors Doing Justice | 11 Mar 2012

Jury Nullifies in Favor of First Amendment in Another Occupy Case


Another jury—this time in Polk County, Iowa—has nullified a state-imposed curfew that conflicted with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. In a strange twist, the prosecutor reportedly asked the jury to nullify the First Amendment in favor of the local restriction, but the jury chose to uphold the higher law.

Jury Reaches Verdict In First Occupy Protester Case

Fallon was charged with trespassing on the Statehouse grounds. He was one of the Occupy Iowa protesters who refused to leave the grounds after authorities said they violated an 11 p.m. curfew.

Juror Aimee Mairs told KCCI’s Amanda Lewis that the decision was a matter of putting the U. S. Constitution above a state imposed curfew. She said four jurors were on board right away, but it took some time to convince the other two jurors.

Mairs said the jury decided Fallon was justified in being on the grounds for the purpose of exercising his First Amendment rights.

“We just came to the agreement that Mr. Fallon was exercising his right to peaceably assemble. He wasn’t breaking any other laws. He had a right to be on public grounds,” said Mairs.

Click through for the entire article.

See our previous post on Occupy L.A.: A Case of Jury Nullification for another case in which an Occupy protester was acquitted through a jury’s exercise of the people’s veto.

We remind all our activists that we have an Occupy the Courthouse! Be a Juror! label template available for those who would like to customize our Fresh Air for Justice brochure or other literature for outreach to or by Occupy groups.


Freedom Friday & Jury Nullification | 09 Mar 2012

Freedom Friday: Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion


This week’s Freedom Friday video features Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion who openly uses and advocates for the legalization of marijuana. In 2010, he was stopped in New Jersey and charged for possession of marijuana. Forchion will be driving cross-country from California to New Jersey in the weeks leading up to his trial. He plans to make it a 10-day trip stopping all across the country spreading the message of jury nullification.

Forchion intends to utilize jury nullification defenses in court and to openly question the law to jurors. He points out that one venue for major social change in this country is our courtrooms. Forchion believes that marijuana should be legal, and he believes at least 6 of his jurors will think so as well. His goal at trial is to convince one of them to say “NOT GUILTY”.

You can help get the word out about Forchion’s case and activism by distributing the link to this blog post to your friends, family, and other contacts via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.


Volunteer | 07 Mar 2012

Recruiting FIJA Activists, State Contacts, and Speakers for Utah


FIJA is recruiting activists, state contacts, and speakers for the state of Utah. If you are interested in learning more about serving in either or both of these volunteer positions, please e-mail our outreach coordinator at kirsten(AT)fija(DOT)org.

We have been asked to provide an outreach table and possibly a speaker for an event in Salt Lake City in April. If you are interested in serving as a state contact or FIJA speaker for Utah, we would love for you to represent us at this event. However, if you are not able to make that specific event, we are still happy to sign you up and have you volunteer as you are able.


Function of Juries & Jurors Doing Justice | 22 Feb 2012

Occupy L.A.: A Case of Jury Nullification


As Occupy protesters have exercised their First Amendment rights across the country, hundreds of arrests have been made by police and numerous charges against them have been filed by government attorneys at taxpayer expense. Many of these cases are settled by protesters giving up their right to a jury trial and simply pleading guilty and paying a fine, doing some community service, or serving some other penalty. But consider the case of Steve Leaderman who exercised his right to trial by jury and won through what his defense attorney says can only be described as jury nullification:

Carmen Trutanich vs. Occupy L.A.: A Case of Jury Nullification

The case against Steve Leaderman should have been easy to prove. Leaderman, 38, was one of the Occupy L.A. protesters who refused to leave City Hall Plaza after the LAPD ordered everyone to disperse on Nov. 30.

Leaderman, a veteran of political demonstrations, locked arms in a circle of protesters. He was ultimately carried out by police and charged with failure to disperse, a misdemeanor.

But after a three-day trial last week, a jury of his peers found him not guilty.

How did that happen?

“He’s actually sitting there. He’s not making any attempt to leave,” said Jason Marcus, Leaderman’s public defender. “The only way you can look at the verdict is jury nullification.”

Click through for the entire story.

We remind all our activists that we have an Occupy the Courthouse! Be a Juror! label template available for those who would like to customize our Fresh Air for Justice brochure or other literature for outreach to or by Occupy groups.


FIJA in the News & FIJActivist & Jury Nullification | 20 Jan 2012

Check out the FIJA Billboard!


Here’s a photo of the FIJA billboard we mentioned a couple of days ago:


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