Jury nullification is a topic that’s of strong interest to those of us in the drug policy reform movement. A jury of peers is supposed to be the ultimate check on government and has the power to judge both the facts and the law, not be a rubber stamp for the prosecutor. Judges and prosecutors may not like that, but they can’t prevent jury nullification… except by attempting to keep jurors in the dark about their rights and responsibilities.
That’s what Judge Belvin Perry tried to do when he sentenced Mark Schmidter to 292 days and $500 for being guilty of “indirect criminal contempt” for passing out jury nullification flyers outside the courthouse.
I had to look up “indirect criminal contempt” because it’s such a Kafkaesque-sounding charge. Sure enough, it exists, although in proper legal framework, indirect criminal contempt defendants are treated as other criminal defendants and allowed jury trial, etc. Florida, for some strange reason, doesn’t allow that by bizarrely defining criminal contempt as not actually being a crime, and gives all the power to the judge.
So here we have a judge who decided he didn’t like Mark Schmidter’s speech, banned it, complained about it, had him arrested, tried him, convicted him, and sentenced him all on his own. That’s not the justice system in which I believe, nor are the judge’s actions allowed by the Constitution I uphold.
So no, I guess I don’t have indirect criminal contempt for Judge Perry. My contempt is a lot more direct.