Pubdate: Sat, 28 May 2016
Source: Trentonian, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2016 The Trentonian
Author: Isaac Avilucea


TRENTON - New Jersey's famous marijuana activist has claimed 
responsibility for putting out pamphlets this week that encouraged 
prospective jurors in a murder trial to vote their conscience and 
"acquit, even when the evidence proves the defendant 'did it.'"

Ed Forchion, better known as NJ Weedman, doesn't need another target 
on his back.

But the marijuana legalization activist says he has been forced to 
act following a drug raid last month on his capital city business.

"I'm getting ready to put on another William Penn trial," said 
Forchion, referring to the prominent Quaker and founder of 
Pennsylvania who was arrested in 1670 because his religious preaching 
ran contrary to the Church of England.

The pamphlets were provided to activists by the Fully Informed Jury 
Association, a little-known jury nullification advocacy group based 
in Helena, Montana. They were distributed this week outside Mercer 
County criminal court.

Forchion says he has a stockpile of the fliers at his mother's house 
and plans to paper the county with them, targeting those wearing 
juror badges as they walk into court.

Kirsten Tynan, executive director of FIJA, said her organization will 
support New Jersey activists any way it can.

The organization was established by the late Larry Dodge, a former 
sociologist and libertarian activist, and once boasted 6,000 members, 
according to the Washington Post.

The little-known organization became a big topic of conversation in 
Mercer this week.

An attorney for murder suspect Maurice Skillman claimed the pamphlets 
"poisoned" the jury panel, and a judge said the material sent a 
"chill up [his] spine."

Prosecutors also claimed the leaflets are "anti-prosecutor."

Officials say no one was arrested or confronted at the Mercer 
courthouse over the leaflets.

But a jury nullification activist, Jim Babb, told The Trentonian an 
officer from the Mercer County Sheriff's Office tried to force him 
and others who passed out the fliers to relocate.

In the past, Babb has been threatened with arrest in New Jersey. He's 
not alone.

In other states, jury nullification advocates have been charged with 
tampering or obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors haven't been successful in those cases because legal 
experts said distributing the fliers is completely legal.

"This is protected free speech activity," said Ed Barocas, legal 
director for the American Civil Liberties of New Jersey. "If there 
are concerns regarding how jurors feel about the information, I 
believe the court should handle it in ways that don't restrict free speech."

For Forchion, a staunch advocate for jury nullification, the 
pamphlets are the beginning.

He says his tactics have worked in the past, when he went on trial 
for transporting large quantities of marijuana in New Jersey. He 
boasts about being acquitted of distribution charges, though he was 
convicted of possession charges in 2010.

Forchion has dared Angelo Onofri, the acting Mercer County 
prosecutor, to try his case.

This week, he discussed plans for a public campaign to convince 
Mercer County jurors New Jersey's drug laws are unjust. He will put 
out his message through TV commercials, billboards and newspaper 

The Mercer County Prosecutor's Office declined to comment about the 
pamphlets or Forchion's case.

Forchion is unafraid of prosecutors trying to build another case 
against him over the pamphlets.

"I dare them," he said. "I welcome that. They would give me a huge 
podium. [Onofri] is gonna get to know me good. I think they took me 
as a simpleton, a fool."

Forchion has received plenty of national attention since Trenton 
Police last month raided his restaurant and pot temple, across the 
street from City Hall in Trenton.

He was arrested, along with 10 others, on drug charges and is 
expected to make an appearance in court next month.

Forchion has also been charged with cyber-bulling for calling a 
Trenton Police officer a "pedophile" - which was decried by free 
speech advocates - and on months-old summonses for sparking up a 
joint during a meeting at City Hall.

He says the arrests are retaliation over a federal lawsuit he filed 
against the city.

The lawsuit challenges whether his pot temple is exempt from an 
ordinance requiring businesses to close at a certain time.

Forchion said the fliers show commitment to his cause. In the end, he 
believes he will prevail.

"It's not anarchy," Forchion said of the leaflets. "The basic premise 
of a jury is that they don't have to rubberstamp everything that the 
government says. Juries can always use their own conscience."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom