Retired professor Julian P. Heicklen was arrested for telling passersby outside the Federal Courthouse in Manhattan about Jury Nullification. Jury Nullification is the philosophy that says a jury can vote "Not Guilty" in a criminal case if they disagree with the law, even if the the defendant actually broke it.
Some examples might be northern juries voting to acquit fugitive slaves in the pre-civil war era because the jurors opposed slavery. In modern times, it might be acquiting someone of marijuana posession because the jurors feels the Marijuana laws on personal use are offensive. On the darker side, it also includes segregation era juries acquitting those who attack civil rights activists because the jurors favored segregation
It seems that ultimately the reason we have citizen juries is to provide a check on the combined power of our Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. If a juror doesn't feel the the defendent's actions are a crime deserving of punishment despite the facts presented by the state, it seems they have an obligation to vote "Not Guilty." There's a reason a jury is asked to vote "Guilty" or "Not Guilty." It's not asked to vote "True" or "False" on the prosecutor's case. Obviously, I'm not a lawyer, so perhaps my understanding of the issue is as thorough at that of legal philosophers.
But the questions of nullification isn't the one I'm really concerned about here. It's that the government arrested someone for telling people about it. He wasn't targeting jurors on a specific case or even jurors specifically. He was talking to anyone out in public near the courthouse about nullification.
The first amendment is all about protecting speech, especially unpopular opinions. In an Op-Ed on the New York Times website, Paul Butler says:
The prosecutors who charged Mr. Heicklen said that “advocacy of jury nullification, directed as it is to jurors, would be both criminal and without constitutional protections no matter where it occurred.” The prosecutors in this case are wrong. The First Amendment exists to protect speech like this — honest information that the government prefers citizens not know.
It outrageous that someone can be arrested for talking about this outside a government building.
You can read more about this case here:
Prosecution Explains Jury Tampering Charge
Jurors Need to Know That They Can Say No