UPDATE (June 3, 2013): According to the “We Are Mark Schmidter” Facebook page, Mark will be released from jail tomorrow after serving 104 days of his 141-day sentence.
100 days ago Mark Schmidter began his 141-day jail sentence. His crime? He handed out this jury rights flyer (PDF) to passersby on the sidewalk outside the Orange County Courthouse in Florida. This was something he’d done openly many times before at the same courthouse.
But in the summer of 2011, Schmidter was arrested for flyering outside a designated “free speech zone.” This zone was ordered by Judge Belvin Perry during the Casey Anthony trial, which he presided over. A crafty enemy of jury rights advocacy, Perry had drafted another administrative order earlier that year banning “the dissemination of leaflets and other materials containing written information tending to influence summoned jurors as they enter the courthouse.”
In a scandalous display of unchecked power — mostly overshadowed by the Casey Anthony frenzy — Judge Perry arrested Schmidter for violating his administrative orders. He then charged him with felony contempt of court and jury tampering. Then, after denying him access to a jury trial (naturally), Perry convicted and sentenced Schmidter to 141 days in jail!