Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2019

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Local man arrested on jury influencing charge

A Las Vegas man who urged jurors to follow their conscience, even if it meant disregarding the law, is in jail for his advocacy.

Keith Kindred, 53, was arrested Monday on a charge of influencing the verdict of a juror or potential juror, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Chief District Judge Donald Mosley instructed courthouse bailiffs to make the arrest after repeatedly warning Kindred to not distribute fliers favoring jury nullification.

Jury nullification occurs when a jury acquits a guilty defendant because it believes the law is wrong.

"A person has a right to demonstrate ... we don't fault him for those views," said Mosley, who believes Kindred was obstructing justice by contacting jurors.

Court Administrator Chuck Short also was concerned that Kindred may have an ulterior motive: He appears before a jury June 24 on a criminal charge of lewdness with a minor.

"The judge that ordered his arrest is nothing but a black-robed, jackbooted thug," said Jim Harnsberger of Fully Informed Jury Association, a Montana-based nonprofit group that gave Kindred the fliers.

"Sidewalks in front of courthouses are traditionally public forums ... and the issue of jury nullification is pure political speech."

Fully Informed Jury Association instructs its members to not direct their efforts at a specific trial or discuss individual cases. If arrested, they are told to make no statement to police.

"He did it at our instruction. He did it within (our) guidelines," said Harnsberger, the association's Western representative who has been arrested 23 times for canvassing San Diego courthouses with jury nullification pamphlets.

Harnsberger and Southern Nevada supporters of jury nullification were busy Monday raising $1,000 to get Kindred out of jail and find him an attorney.

The issue of jury nullification recently received national attention after O.J. Simpson was acquitted of killing his former wife and her friend. Some have argued that Simpson's attorney, Johnnie Cochran, urged the jury to ignore the law and "send a message."

Other examples of juries ignoring evidence of guilt are a spousal abuse case where the wife killed the husband and an AIDS-infected man using marijuana for medicinal purposes, Harnsberger said. Both times, he said, the individuals were acquitted.

Montana resident Larry Dodge, who co-founded the Fully Informed Jury Association in 1989, estimates six people have been arrested for handing out information about jury nullification in the past seven years. Among them was Reno resident Yvonne Regas, whose charges were dismissed.

"It is not only quite legal but it is in the tradition of the United States and Mother England, where we got the concept," Dodge said.

But Clark County Bar Association President Sal Gugino argues the opposite.

"When a jury ignores the law, they're ignoring the entire structure of the civilization in which they live," said Gugino, adding that the attorneys group has not taken a position on jury nullification.

"I think it is wrong to advise people that they have a constitutional right to ignore the laws that are established for everybody's protection. If we all oppose the laws, then we will be living under anarchy."