File:The Jury by John Morgan.jpg


The New York Times reports on the case of Julian P. Heicklen, a 78-year-old retired chemistry professor from New Jersey, who now faces federal criminal charges. What has the mild-mannered Dr. Heicklen done?

Since 2009, Mr. Heicklen has stood [at 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan] and at courthouse entrances elsewhere and handed out pamphlets encouraging jurors to ignore the law if they disagree with it, and to render verdicts based on conscience. That concept, called jury nullification, is highly controversial, and courts are hostile to it. But federal prosecutors have now taken the unusual step of having Mr. Heicklen indicted on a charge that his distributing of such pamphlets at the courthouse entrance violates a law against jury tampering.

Federal prosecutors in New York have reached the alarming decision that informing individuals on the street in front of the courthouse (some of whom may be en route to serve on a jury pool) about the doctrine of jury nullification is a criminal act. Their view would find no sympathy among the authors of America’s constitutional system.


This is a big deal to me.

If you knew how much time was spent arguing over jury instructions; and how many appeals involved a strange sentence or two within those instructions, you would see how cumbersome our justice system really is.   In some civil cases, in some criminal cases a score of pages will be read to a jury panel that includes no attorneys.

How in the hell are these peers supposed to figure out all this mumbo jumbo?

Law & Order has done a remarkable job over two decades demonstrating how serendipitous findings by juries provide as much justice as the flip of a coin.

Nevertheless, there is little doubt as to the ability of a jury to nullify the law. Today, there are several issues raised by jury nullification.

  • First, whether juries can or should be instructed or informed of their power to nullify.
  • Second, whether a judge may remove jurors “for cause” when they refuse to apply the law as instructed.
  • Third, whether a judge may punish a juror for exercising his power of jury nullification.
  • Fourth, whether all legal arguments, except perhaps on motions in limine to exclude evidence, should be made in the presence of the jury.

In some cases, a stealth juror will attempt to get on a jury in order to nullify the law.[11] Some lawyers use a shadow defense to get information entered into the record that would otherwise be inadmissible hoping that evidence will trigger a jury nullification

And people who would like to get on with their everyday lives can be punished for not fulfilling their civic duty.


And of course, in some quarters, it is against the law not to show up for jury duty.

Deliberate disobedience for jury duty will no longer be tolerated in Brampton, a Superior Court judge says.

“Going forward, random checks of jury panel member absences can be expected with punishment where warranted,” Justice Casey Hill said in a judgment released this week.

Hill has been investigating an alarming rise in Peel residents ignoring requests to appear for possible jury duty.

During a five-month period, the fail-to-appear rate for prospective jurors has ranged from 11 and 22 per cent for 42 different trials between September and January.

Last week, Hill asked Crown Carson Coughlin to seek advice from the Attorney General in tracking down seven people who recently failed to show up for jury duty in Brampton.

The judge wants to know whether these people have moved, died, are in hospital or simply ignoring a court order.

It’s conceivable police could become involved in tracking them down with possible contempt of court charges laid.


There have been so many good films relating to this issue.

John Cusak is one of my favorite actors. You will find him in scores of films and usually you will have the opportunity to check out his sister costarring in the same flick. Hahahaha Who is fabulous by the way.


Runaway Jury is a fun experience in cinema.

If you move to a new county, for whatever reason, you will receive a jury notification. Ha

That is how our system works and it makes no sense.

I moved into Virginia in January of 2006 and once I had a real address after of residing in a homeless shelter, I was notified.

Cusak’s character in the Runaway Jury does exactly this in some Parish in Louisiana. And he and his lover planned this entire ruse in order to get on the jury in a specific lawsuit. Cusak changes his name, moves to New Orleans and starts up a shop  and shortly thereafter he receives his jury notification.  His purpose is to turn a jury against a corporate gun manufacturer that had destroyed his home town.  Some student pulled a Columbine that could just have easily been the nut who shot 19 people in Arizona and his hometown retaliated in the civil courts only to lose everything.

He gets on the jury by lying, but only by pretending that he does not wish to fulfill his duty as a citizen of the county.

Oh lord please let this panel pass me by so I may continue with my life. Ha

Hackman (who has been my favorite actor for decades) is the bad guy, running a scam that follows each and every juror from their birth to the date of their acceptance on the jury panel.

Bribery and extortion and all sorts of felonious conduct is involved in this example of jury tampering.

You realize of course, that in the days of olde a jury was supposed to be comprised of only those who knew the parties in a civil or criminal suit. Peers meant something in those days. Hahahahah

If you make a hundred grand a year, why in the hell would you wish to serve on a jury and receive the pittance of $30.00 a day with terrible take-out included?

And what about those cases that go on for months and months forcing citizens to put their lives on hold?

There is more than one example of a judge ‘imprisoning’ a jury for not convicting a defendant.

Bushel’s Case arose from a previous case involving two Quakers charged with unlawful assembly, William Penn and William Mead. They had been arrested in August 1670 for violating the Conventicle Act, which forbade religious assemblies of more than five people outside the auspices of the Church of England. The judge in their case charged the jury that they “shall not be dismissed until we have a verdict that the court will accept.” When the jury acquitted the two men, the judge refused to accept the verdict, fined them and sent them back to deliberate further. Edward Bushel, a member of the jury, refused to pay the fine, at which point the judge threatened him, saying, “[y]ou shall be locked up without meat, drink, fire, and tobacco. You shall not think thus to abuse the court; we will have a verdict, by the help of God, or you shall starve for it.”


A short misdemeanor trial or a three day PI case could be a great lesson for a layman in how our system works.

Otherwise, a stay on a jury panel can be absolute hell!



  1. I am a bad, bad boy Dick. I’ve managed all these years, so far, to make my loathing for lawyers and the courts very transparent during jury questioning. I can tell you they’ve gotten my message. They don’t want me. Sure was different though when they wanted to send my ass to Vietnam. I wasn’t so hot for that either but they weren’t friggin’ listening. One of these days, just for the hell of it, I might just be my regular sweet self, :), get selected, and then make as big a mess of it as possible. Why the hell should I be cooperative when every day of the year congress makes laws for those who can afford it and everybody else can go f*** a duck. Maybe I’m no better that the big corps and the like who stick it to the government every chance they get. Or is there a moral and ethical difference with the axe one is grinding?

    1. That is what freedom is supposed to be all about!!

      If I were a defendant on some trumped up charge I would personally ask the jury to tell the DA and the judge to go to hell.

      1. I think Dick, that half the judges and the DA’s, when their time comes, and they’re at the pearly gates, the folks doing the interviewing will be doubled over laughing at the idea of those guys gaining entry.

  2. cmaukonen

    I only ever sat once on a jury. It was not some major case, just some small thing over some land rights. While deliberating all of us agreed on two things. One that the defendant was a guilty as hell and two that the prosecution’s case had more holes it than the Albert hall.

    So we acquitted the person. Afterwords we talked to the assistant district attorney and told her why we did what we did and asked why she did not put certain people on the stand. She said she did not think it would have helped and we said, you never know.

    Our current system is better than what went before but not by much.

  3. Excellent post, Dick! I got sidetracked reading a link at the Harpers piece, about jurors in Missoula County refusing to put anyone behind bars for having a small amount of marijuana. Right on!

    I also love John Cusack and I’ve seen Runaway Jury. I read the book first, a great John Grisham novel, and there are some major differences between the film and the book, but…even with that, the movie was great. A must-see.

    1. I like Grisham! If I recall he began as an attorney if I recall correctly.

      I am watching Cusak right now on Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil!

      He is a great actor and a good, hard working dem.

      1. Yes, Grisham was an attorney first. And in the novel, “The Runaway Jury”, it’s a big tobacco trial, not guns.

        Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is another good film taken from a great book. I love Kevin Spacey. *sigh*

  4. ~flowerchild~

    Ha! It cracked me up a little when you mentioned getting a jury duty notice immediately upon moving to a new place. It happened to my son, too, just last year.

    Before he left Arizona he did all the change of address stuff so he would be all set up when he got back to Michigan. Then he and his gf took the round about way home, seeing some of the country.

    Not one week after he left Flagstaff, we got a jury duty notice addressed to him in the mail. It was two weeks after that he got back and when he opened it, it was to find he had missed the respond by date.

    So far, he has not been arrested for ignoring the notice. 😉

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