Jury Nullifiers Want Police Held in Contempt

     DENVER (CN) – A jury nullification group wants Denver police held in contempt for interrupting its protest outside a courthouse after a judge issued an injunction allowing them to do it.
     The Fully Informed Jury Association sued Denver on Aug. 17, claiming its members feared arrest because police had arrested two members on bogus felony charges of jury tampering for giving a leaflet to a juror outside a courthouse.
     Jury nullification advocates say jurors should be allowed to acquit defendants regardless of how the judge defines the law or instructs them. The association says on its Web page that jury nullification can “protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by government.”
     U.S. District Judge William Martinez on Tuesday allowed the group to speak and hand out specified pamphlets in specified areas by the courthouse, but allowed police to enforce laws on harassment , obstruction of passage, erecting structures outside the specified area, and using sound amplification equipment.
     The association claims the day after Martinez signed its injunction, police took 1,000 brochures from its tent, took chairs and signs, and eventually the tent itself. It claims that all the items were in the allowed “restricted area” outside the Lindsey-Flannigan Denver County Courthouse, the main criminal courthouse in Denver.
     The Denver Post reported Thursday that the group “shouted profanities” at police as the officers removed a tent from in front of the courthouse.
     The association’s attorney David Lane called police “jack-booted thugs” in his Wednesday request for Police Chief Robert White to be cited for contempt of court.
     “The Denver police, acting as jack-booted thugs in blatant violation of this court’s order, came into the plaza and began seizing all property not being carried by a pamphleteer,” Lane wrote in his motion. “The only plausible explanation for this is that the police were acting in retaliation for the exercise of the free speech rights of the pamphleteers.”
     He added: “The pamphleteers were not ‘encumbering’ ingress, egress or anything else simply by their presence peacefully passing out jury nullification literature. The mere presence of a packet of literature, a small shade shelter canopy, a cooler, a small table and signs encumbered nothing.”
     Denver City Attorney Wendy Shea disagrees.
     She said the group “far exceeded” what it was allowed to do, and that police removed “prohibited encumbrances” only after the protesters refused to. Nor did the police “take any literature,” Shea wrote for the city in her Thursday response .
     “Plaintiffs did not merely show up at the plaza to distribute their literature and orally advocate the jury nullification message contained in the pamphlets as they repeatedly represented to this court,” Shea wrote.
     “Rather, plaintiffs and other protestors far exceeded their free speech and/or assembly rights protected by the First Amendment, this court’s order, and the stipulation by: (1) erecting a canopy/tent … (2) setting up a table and numerous chairs, (3) leaving a hand truck (dolly) in the area, and (4) bringing a water jug/bucket, which was filled with what the police suspected as oil/gas.”
     Shea wrote that police specifically instructed the protesters that they were allowed to protest so long as they followed the judge’s orders, and that videotapes show that “plaintiffs’ contention that the Denver police ‘engaged in retaliatory action for the exercise of protected speech’ is entirely devoid of any legitimate supporting facts.”
     The city submitted the video as evidence. Martinez had not ruled Thursday night on the motion to hold the city in contempt.
     The weeklong brouhaha came as Denver’s attention was focused on the courthouse, where jurors were deciding whether to sentence a man to death for stabbing five people to death in a bar in 2012. The jury on Thursday sentenced Dexter Lewis to life in prison.

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