Colorado Supreme Court Interprets Jury Tampering Law
If actors aren’t attempting to influence a specific case, it’s protected speech, court says

by Julia Cardi

In a case over jury tampering charges, the Colorado Supreme Court split the baby between the competing legal interpretations proposed by each side.

In one decision for two cases, People v. Iannicelli and People v. Brandt, the court upheld a Court of Appeals decision that in turn affirmed dismissal of charges against two people for jury tampering. But the Supreme Court partly disagreed with the lower appeals court’s analysis to get there.

At issue in the case are the definitions of “juror” and “a case,” which Colorado’s jury tampering law doesn’t define boundaries for. The court’s interpretation of the law is broader than people who have been chosen as jurors or who have been selected as part of a panel from which a jury in a particular case will be chosen, but it doesn’t include just anyone summoned for jury duty and who likely won’t end up serving on any jury.

Jay Schweikert, a policy analyst with the libertarian think tank Cato Institute who authored an amicus brief for the Supreme Court, said interpreting jury tampering provisions presents important questions about the scope of protected speech.

“More generally, it’s whether we’re able to even have a robust dialogue about what the rights and duties of citizen jurors are,” he said. He said the Cato Institute views the independence of juries as an “absolutely crucial feature of our criminal justice system.”

To read the rest of this story and other complete articles featured in the Sept. 30, 2019 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.