Criminal Law Blog & News
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Jury Power: Under Attack
A recent N.Y. Times editiorial exposes how prosecutors are charging a retired chemistry professor with jury tampering as a result of him handing out pamphlets providing information on the historical doctrine of jury nullification.
Prosecutors are charging Julian P. Heicklin with jury tampering after he was observed handing out literature which contained information regarding the concept of jury nullification while in front of a federal courthouse in Manhattan. Although historically recognized as the power of citizens to have the final say on the merits of a prosecution and punishment, prosecutors and some judges have been working to erode this basic freedom and criminal defense attorneys are admonished not to disclose this basic power to the jury.
In Florida, juries are routinely misadvised of the law by the judge in cases involving mandatory minimum sentences. They are told it is the judges job to determine a proper sentence when, in fact, the legislature has tied the court's hands and has mandated strict minimum sentences. While the jury is misled into believing the learned judge on the bench will be able to take all circumstances of the case into consideration prior to imposing a sentence, the fact is they cannot do so unless they first impose the minimum sentence.