Julian P. Heicklen sat silent and unresponsive as his bail hearing began one day recently in federal court in Manhattan; his eyes were closed, his head slumped forward.Read the rest here.
“Mr. Heicklen?” the magistrate judge, Ronald L. Ellis, asked. “Mr. Heicklen? Is Mr. Heicklen awake?”
“I believe he is, your honor,” a prosecutor, Rebecca Mermelstein, said. “I think he’s choosing not to respond but is certainly capable of doing so.”
There was, in fact, nothing wrong with Mr. Heicklen, 78, who eventually opened his eyes and told the judge, “I’m exercising my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.”
Indeed, it was not his silence that landed Mr. Heicklen, a retired Pennsylvania State University chemistry professor, in court; it was what he had been doing outside the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl Street.
Since 2009, Mr. Heicklen has stood there 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 the law against jury tampering. He was arraigned on Friday in a somewhat contentious hearing before Judge Kimba M. Wood, who entered a not guilty plea on his behalf when he refused to say how he would plead. During the proceeding, he railed at the judge and the government, and called the indictment “a tissue of lies.”