In a stunning coup for the Fully Informed Jury Association’s chief pamphleteer Julian Heicklen — the 80-year-old retired chemistry professor who has often stood outside various courthouses holding a “Jury Info” sign and handing out brochures that inform jurors of their rights — had all jury tampering charges dismissed by a federal judge on Thursday.
NYT writes, “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.”
“Mr. Heicklen expressed pleasure at the ruling. ‘Not just for me,’ he said. ‘I think it’s a major decision for the country.’”
“He added: ‘This is better than having them throw me in jail.’”
We’ve covered Heicklen’s saga before here at HoT and are happy to report a happy ending to Heicklen’s legal situation. This news is especially uplifting considering he acted as his own lawyer (which is often looked down on by court officers).
There’s no doubt Heicklen and his associates at FIJA will soon be back in front of courthouses, handing out literature on jury rights to anyone walking by. We’re rooting for him to be able to use this exhaustive legal experience of his own to further inform the police and court officers they have no grounds to arrest him the next time they want to get snooty about his activities.
Update: Kirsten at FIJA has correctly pointed out to us that Mr. Heicklen is not a formal part of their organization. We asked her to elaborate but have not heard back. We asked, “Is there a statement that you’d like to put out there on the heels of this news that you endorse this or don’t endorse court-side pamphleting behavior like this?”
Well it seems FIJA is indeed receptive to his triumph on their own website. They add a warning for anyone potentially following Heicklen’s lead, “activists should conduct general outreach activity and avoid even the appearance of being associated with a particular case.” Otherwise it is jury tampering.