DENVER (AP) — An attorney for two people who want to hand out pamphlets telling potential jurors they have a right to ignore laws they believe are wrong asked a federal judge on Friday to stop authorities from arresting people who hand out fliers telling people of their rights.
Two people have already been arrested, and a Denver judge posted a warning against handing out literature, protesting or holding demonstrations, at least while a death penalty case is being tried in Denver District Court.
Prosecutors said potential jurors may have been given notices that might influence their decisions. A notice posted on the courthouse doors says people must be able to enter the courthouse unhindered by confrontation, interference or harassment.
In addition to charges of jury tampering, violators could also be held in contempt of court.
The restrictions are limited to front entrances to the Denver courthouse and were not intended to limit free speech, but to protect public safety, said Steven Steadman, who is in charge of security for Colorado courts.
Attorney David Lane said protesters against the current jury system have the same rights as people who protest other causes outside the courthouse, including people who pray, march and picket for causes they believe in.
It’s not jury tampering to hand out fliers, he said. “They’re not asking for a specific verdict. They’re not asking you to acquit or not convict someone. It’s education,” Lane said.
Lane said it was a travesty after Denver police arrested Eric Brandt and Mark Iannicelli after prosecutors accused them of jury tampering. Brandt and Iannicelli are accused of handing out literature outside the Denver courthouse on July 27, telling people they can ignore laws they consider unjust while serving on juries, also known as jury nullification.
The federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Eric Verlo and Janet Matzen, who want to pass out the same literature.
According to court documents, the fliers tell potential jurors that the United States has a long history of jurors who exonerated defendants because they had the right to refuse to enforce what they considered bad laws, including a case where jurors refused to enforce the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act that required states to turn over fugitive slaves to their masters.
By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer
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