A Denver District Court judge on Wednesday dismissed all charges against two men accused of jury tampering after they were arrested for handing out literature on courthouse grounds that explained jury nullification, reported The Denver Post.
Mark Iannicelli and Eric Brandt were arrested in July at the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse, and each was charged with seven felony counts of jury tampering, and carry up to three years in prison for passing out pamphlets to potential jurors explaining jury nullification. Jury nullification is the right of a jury to acquit a defendant despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the charge. The practice is intended to nullify a law that is deemed immoral or wrongly applied.
Denver District Court Judge Kenneth Plotz ordered that all charges be dropped after a motions hearing on Wednesday. The dismissal followed a federal civil rights lawsuit where U.S. District Judge William Martinez ruled that the men have a constitutional right to protest and distribute literature on public courthouse grounds, according to the Associated Press.
David Lane, the attorney who represented Iannicelli and Brandt, accused prosecutors in District Attorney Mitch Morrissey's office of overreach and abuse of power, arguing that people have a constitutional right to protest and distribute literature in public, according to the Post. Lane said that he might file a federal lawsuit against prosecutors for wrongfully jailing his clients.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office said that prosecutors are considering appealing the judge's decision.
"The District Attorney strongly supports the First Amendment and the right to free speech," Lynn Kimbrough said. "He is also obligated to uphold the laws of Colorado, which prohibit a person from communicating with a juror with the intent to influence a juror's vote. The charges that he filed in these two cases alleged that specific conduct."
However, as Reason notes, the pamphlets were given to jury pool members who had not been chosen for a specific trial, meaning that there was no evidence that the men were attempting to influence the outcome of any particular case.