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Happytown: Mark Schmidter in jail again

Judge Belvin Perry puts Fully Informed Jury Association member back in jail for "jury tampering"

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Because justice is neither certain nor in anything resembling a hurry, the name Mark Schmidter popped back into our collective consciousness this week, mostly because Schmidter is in jail again. You may recall us going on and on (and on) about Schmidter for a few months back in 2011, because he was the only thing happening at the Orange County Courthouse that wasn't Casey Anthony.

Schmidter was (and apparently still is) acting as a foot soldier for the strict constitutionalists that comprise the Fully Informed Jury Association, a group that believes in the concept of "jury nullification," or the right of jurors to make their decisions based on whether they believe in a law or not, and not just whether the defendant actually violated the law. Chief Judge Belvin Perry was not amused by the notion and effectively banned protestors from interacting with jurors outside the court, except in "free speech zones." But Schmidter supported the idea so much that he found himself arrested and sentenced to 141 days in the summer of 2011 for handing out pamphlets to jurors explaining jury nullification. After a few days in the pokey, Schmidter bonded out and a fairly extensive appeals process ensued. Free speech! Etc.

Which brings us to now. Even though Schmidter has a pending appeal with the Florida Supreme Court and a declaratory judgment action being litigated in Orlando's federal court, Judge Perry called him into the courtroom for a resentencing hearing for one count of contempt of court on Feb. 21. When all was said and done, Perry stuck by his original decision, ordering Schmidter to serve 141 days, a decision Schmidter's attorney Adam Sudbury says is "disproportionately harsh."

Sudbury's contention is (once again) that Perry is punishing Schmidter for the crime of "jury tampering," something that Sudbury says would require that his client was directly trying to influence the outcome of a single case. Not so! He's standing up for free speech! And the constitution! Anyway, Sudbury's since filed an emergency motion to try to secure a stay for Schmidter, seeing as he'll probably spend all 141 days in jail before the appeals process is resolved, and that's not fair. But, at least according to Sudbury, Schmidter's taking it all in stride.

"Mark really believe in what he's doing is right, and he's standing on principle," Sudbury says. "If his sacrifice helps secure some of our rights and liberties that we're losing every day here, I think he thinks he will have done something good."

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