August 28, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) Denver, CO –– Throughout the month of August, Denver authorities have harassed activists attempting to educate jurors about their rights in the courtroom. On Wednesday, Denver police defied a judge’s injunction that ordered police to respect jury nullification activists’ right to peaceably assemble. Officers reportedly confiscated 1,000 pamphlets, a shade tent, and a table — among other items — and sparked swift action from first amendment advocates.
Earlier this month, Anti-Media reported that Mark Ianicelli was arrested outside Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse for handing out pamphlets about jury nullification. For those unfamiliar with jury nullification, it’s the process by which jurors can invalidate unjust laws by declaring the accused person not guilty — regardless of whether or not they are guilty of the “crime.” The practice has been used since before the establishment of the United States and throughout the country’s history. It has been used to fight everything from the oppressive, pre-Civil War era Fugitive Slave Act to 1920s alcohol prohibition. Recently, jurors exonerated a man of cannabis charges using nullification. In spite of the practice’s long history, however, Iannicelli was charged with multiple felonies for disseminating information about it.
Though he was released on bail, another activist, Eric Brandt, was arrested for the same “crime” days later. Authorities claim the arrests were warranted because the activists’ actions allegedly amounted to “jury tampering,” or attempting to influence the jury. Charges were pressed accordingly, but jury nullification advocates claimed the activists’ actions do not fit the accusations because they were not attempting to influence any specific case.
As Kirsten Tynan of the Fully Informed Jury Association told Anti-Media, “The District Attorney’s office has very notably made publicly absolutely ZERO evidence that either Mr. Iannicelli or Mr. Brandt communicated with such intent.” She added, “I suspect the DA’s office knows that and is instead trying to terrorize them into taking a plea bargain when they have done nothing wrong.”
Following the two arrests, a Denver judge barred any form of public demonstration outside the courthouse. On Tuesday, however, Judge William Martinez overrode that decision while addressing a motion filed by civil rights attorney David Lane, the Fully Informed Jury Association, and two local activists. He ruled that as long as the landscape surrounding the courthouse was left intact, activists had the right to assemble.
“There appears to be no contest on this point,” Martinez said of activists’ right to assemble near the courthouse. He granted them the right to organize outside the courthouse and to hand out two different jury nullification pamphlets. As the Denver Post reported, Martinez sided overwhelmingly with the first amendment and activists, noting only that they could not build “new structures” that create an “encumbrance.”
On Wednesday, however, police took issue with a shade tent, table, and chairs that jury nullification activists set up, claiming the tent constituted a “new structure.” Lane told the Anti-Media that this allegation is entirely unfounded.
“Denver is taking the position that you need a permit before you can put a chair down in a public place, essentially, which is ridiculous,” he said. “The statute says you cannot encumber the public right of way. There is no definition of ‘encumber’ other than the dictionary definition, which means to create a major obstacle. So they’re using this as an excuse to harass people and retaliate against them.”
Further, Tynan noted that according to the injunction, the “new structure” caveat only applied to a certain area, shaded in yellow on a map of the premises in the injunction. She says the activists did not set up their tent in that area, highlighting more proof that they were not in violation.
Though no arrests were made, the “structure” was torn down. Almost immediately, Lane (who is also representing Iannicelli and Brandt in their criminal cases) and the Fully Informed Jury Association filed a motion in federal court demanding the government explain why Denver Police Chief Robert White should not be held in contempt for the officers’ actions, which directly violated Martinez’ Tuesday ruling. In other words, they argued that he should be held in contempt. In the motion, Lane claimed the police had confiscated 1,000 court-approved pamphlets, along with the shade tent, table, chairs, and other items. He referred to the police as “jack-booted thugs.”
In the meantime, the city’s lawsuits against both Iannicelli and Brandt are moving forward. Even in the midst of the Martinez’s acknowledgment of their rights, it appears the city and its law enforcement henchmen are intent on destroying first amendment guarantees. In spite of this, activists will celebrate Jury Rights Day on September 4th, where they will hold a press conference and educational outreach. The day commemorates the 1670 jury nullification of the case of William Penn, who was prosecuted for free speech in a public forum. The event page can be viewed here.
If the justice system defends integrity, ensures equity, and upholds morality — as its operators would have Americans believe it does — it is difficult to understand why that system is so vehemently opposed to letting jurors do their jobs. Trial by jury is often lauded as a central tenet of glorified democracy — and if authorities want to cultivate the appearance that they respect and uphold these values, it is painfully unclear why they are going to such controversial lengths to prevent jurors from knowing their rights.
As Lane said, “If you’re passing out literature in Red Square and Vladimir Putin and his henchmen don’t like it, you go to jail. If you’re passing out things in Denver and the DA and police don’t like it, you go to jail. Welcome to the land of free.”
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Carey Wedler joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in September of 2014. Her topics of interest include the police and warfare states, the Drug War, the relevance of history to current problems and solutions, and positive developments that drive humanity forward. Living at her place of birth, she currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Learn more about Wedler here!