A man has been charged by the Denver District Attorney’s office with seven counts of “jury tampering” for handing out information about jury nullification.
Prosecutors say 56-year-old Mark Iannicelli allegedly passed out fliers titled, “All You Need To Know About Jury Nullification,” to potential jurors as they entered the Lindsay-Flanigan Courthouse last week.
“The charges allege that on July 27, Iannicelli set up a small booth with a sign that said ‘Juror Info’ in front of the courthouse and provided jury nullification flyers to jury pool members,” a DA spokesman said.
Of particular concern to prosecutors – the affidavit for the mans arrest says – was that a death penalty case was underway at the courthouse.
Jury nullification occurs when a jury acquits a defendant, even though they believe them to be guilty of the charges under the law. Supporters maintain that not only do members of a jury have the ability to judge whether or not a defendant broke the law – but also – the law itself.
A nullification may occur when jurors disagree with the law a defendant has been charged under, or believe that it should not be applied in the case.
By the 12th century, common law courts in England began using juries for more than just administrative duties and recognized the de facto power of nullification. – The power of juries to decide on verdicts was even recognized in the English Magna Carta of 1215.
In the United States, jury nullification has been utilized by jurors since before the American Revolutionary War to fight tyranny. Colonial juries frequently exercised the power in maritime and free speech cases. It became so popular that many British prosecutors gave up even trying to enforce the laws because convictions were so seldom arrived at.
Jury nullification was also used before the Civil-War to acquit runaway slaves being prosecuted under the Fugitive Slave Act.
During the prohibition of the early 20th century, juries often nullified alcohol control laws – as often as 60% of the time – which ultimately contributed to the repeal of such laws and the ratification of the Eighteenth amendment.
In recent rulings however, courts have prohibited informing juries about their right to nullify.
In 1969, a Fourth Circuit decision upheld the concept of nullification, but affirmed the power of the court to refuse to permit jurors from being instructed about the right.
In 1972, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a similar ruling.
In 1988, a Sixth Circuit Court said, “There is no such thing as valid jury nullification,” and in 1997, a Second Circuit Court ruled that jurors can be removed if there is evidence that they intend to nullify.
The Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue, but in 2012, New Hampshire passed a state law explicitly allowing juries to be informed about nullification.
Iannicelli is currently free on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond and is scheduled to make his first appearance in court on Aug. 11.