General Question

LiekOmg1100's avatar

Is it illegal to pass out jury nullification paraphernalia on the courthouse steps?

Asked by LiekOmg1100 (22points) January 27th, 2011

The question is self explanatory. I’ve read it’s not illegal but I’ve read of people being arrested for it as it brings an air of dissent against the state. This is hypothetical.

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20 Answers

squirbel's avatar

Well, in my opinion – if someone knows a reason the jury should be nullified, and feels the court is not handling it, they have the right to notify the public. This is a democracy – and having the government silence an individual(s) right to speak is definitely against the law.

lillycoyote's avatar

Do you have any examples of what you’re talking about? Oh, never mind, I’ll google it. Because, at least in the good old US of A, no one is ever arrested, at least not openly and for that stated reason, for something because “it brings an air of dissent against the state.”

I’m thinking it’s probably not legal to hand it out to anyone who is serving on a jury. Maybe not legal to hand out to someone who is there because they have been called for jury duty and may be selected. I don’t know if handing it out on the courthouse steps would be considered too close. Is there a lawyer in the house? Help!

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YARNLADY's avatar

There are restrictions on the type of material that can be handed out on government property.

Kraigmo's avatar

I was told in San Diego that I was jury tampering, when I did such a thing, and they threatened to charge me with that, unless I left. I left.

I was probably in the legal right. But I can only take so much disruption.

crisw's avatar

Out of curiosity, what, exactly, is the rationale behind doing this? Is it specific to one case or a general tactic?

lillycoyote's avatar

@crisw If you check out the OP’s link, in response to my asking for examples, there is apparently something called the “Fully Informed Jury Association” that has been doing this sort of thing. I’ve never heard of them.

crisw's avatar

Well, frankly, reading that article, and then the webpage of the association, made them sound just a bit like rather paranoid right-wing anti-government types.

cazzie's avatar

That book is dubious. It’s the book/pamphlet you are referring to, are you not? ‘Citizens Rule Book’... written, initially ‘anonymously’ and then found it’s authorship to be some anti-government nut-job who was not a lawyer of any sort.

Buttonstc's avatar

As I have discovered in my experience as a street performer, Federal Govt. property itself is pretty much off limits to any activity (even something as innocuous as balloon sculpture, go figure !)

However, the public sidewalks not directly on Govt. property are precisely that. Public property.

But the city is still the agency in control and a lot is left up to the discretion of the local beat cop, so it’s basically a crap shoot.

However, since you aren’t selling anything it can’t be considered as “vending”.

Generally, if you’re not being really obnoxious or blocking normal people traffic on the sidewalks, you should be OK.

It’s not necessarily a question of what is strictly legal or not either. It’s what a cop is willing to tolerate in his territory. You might technically be permitted there legally, but I guarantee that if you take advantage of it, they will find something nebulous to charge you with
that you cannot disprove as it’s a judgement call (disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, whatever)

So that obviously means no bullhorns or shoving stuff in peoples hands or harrassing them.

I’ve seen plenty of cases where folks were politely offering advertising flyers for local restaurants, nightclubs, etc. with no problems.

Demeanor and placement count for a lot. Most cops are not looking to hassle peaceful people doing a fairly boring job in a non-confrontational manner (it just means more paperwork for them)

Attitude and common sense is everything. Just don’t be an ass about it and make certain where the Govt. property boundary line is. If you don’t know, ask. It’s obviously a definite point somewhere. Stay away from it and don’t insist on being a jerk about passing out your pamphlets and it should be fine.

Don’t hassle people, dress sensibly, be polite and don’t give the city authorities any particular reason to take special notice of you and don’t act like a hysterical lunatic and chances are nobody will bother you.

The people who failed to be sensible about it were the ones being cuffed and taken away by the cops. The Moonie selling roses, the stridently yelling guy promoting his political candidate, the hostile guy begging for change and cussing people out who didn’t give him anything, all got carted off right in front of my eyes.

Just don’t be like them and do your thing in peace and quiet. Don’t give them a reason to cart you off and in all likelihood they’ll leave you alone.

But if you’re looking for a confrontation hoping it will help get your point across, you won’t like the way it ends. Just be smart about it.

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WasCy's avatar

I’m amused that those new to the concept view it as some sort of “radical right wing” thing (apparently because it’s been used more often recently in relation to weapons violations). I don’t know the whole history of Jury Nullification (as it applies to the USA), but my sense is that it used to be primarily a “radical left wing” concept (not that I’m any less in favor of it for that reason).

Jury Nullification has sometimes been an out for criminal defendants in drug cases, as well as assisted suicide. See this link. The prosecution can catch the defendant red-handed growing, distributing / selling ‘product’ and even get a signed confession. Yet an “informed” jury, deciding that the law under which the prosecution proceeds, can and does find the defendant “not guilty” of the charge, on the basis that the law itself is invalid.

But with that said, I can also understand why disseminating information on the practice and topic “on the courthouse steps” (especially during a trial or during jury selection for a particular trial) would be seriously frowned upon by the “justice system” (read: police and prosecutors).

I don’t need a pamphlet.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Please remember: This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

cazzie's avatar

I believe that we should call the law an ass from time to time. Like in this case:

A mother, trying to break a cycle of bad education, gets sentenced to 5 years, just for fudging the application and using the children’s FATHER’S address, instead of hers. The father is paying taxes in the district. Screwed up system. This law is an ass and this judge’s opinion should be overturned.

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