Civil Liberties

Jury Nullification Activist Gets 141 Days in Jail

For pamphlets. Really.


Because justice is neither certain nor in anything resembling a hurry, the name Mark Schmidter popped back into our collective consciousness this week, mostly because Schmidter is in jail again. You may recall us going on and on (and on) about Schmidter for a few months back in 2011, because he was the only thing happening at the Orange County Courthouse that wasn't Casey Anthony.

Schmidter was (and apparently still is) acting as a foot soldier for the strict constitutionalists that comprise the Fully Informed Jury Association, a group that believes in the concept of "jury nullification," or the right of jurors to make their decisions based on whether they believe in a law or not, and not just whether the defendant actually violated the law. Chief Judge Belvin Perry was not amused by the notion and effectively banned protestors from interacting with jurors outside the court, except in "free speech zones." But Schmidter supported the idea so much that he found himself arrested and sentenced to 141 days in the summer of 2011 for handing out pamphlets to jurors explaining jury nullification. After a few days in the pokey, Schmidter bonded out and a fairly extensive appeals process ensued. Free speech! Etc.