There’s a story in today’s Guardian on a dispute in Denver over volunteers handing out informational flyers about jury nullification in front of the courthouse. The district attorney has charged two activists with felony jury tampering (!) for handing out the flyers, while the city attorney has directed the cops to stop arresting people for handing out flyers, because such arrests are an obvious violation of the right of free speech.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, jury nullification consists of juries refusing to convict defendants either because they believe that the law in question is unjust or because they believe that defendants had good justification for breaking the law in question.

Most people believe that juries are bound to follow judges’ instructions and convict defendants regardless of whether jurors consider a law unjust or that defendants are justified in breaking it. There is no such obligation. Juries can find defendants not guilty in such circumstances, and there’s not a thing judges or prosecutors can do to them because of it.

Over the years, there have been many horrendous miscarriages of justice resulting from juries being unaware of this, and prosecutors want to keep it that way.

So, what the activists handing out flyers at the Denver courthouse were and are doing is not only courageous, but important. If enough people become aware that jury nullification is possible, it would put a brake on the power of the state to steamroller political activists.

The best source of information on jury nullification is the Fully Informed Jury Association. Check ’em out, please.

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