November 13, 2009
A Colorado Springs municipal judge Friday postponed a trespassing trial for Douglas Bruce and a fellow anti-tax activist after prosecutors argued the jury pool had been tainted by a man handing out leaflets in front of the courthouse.
The leaflets, according to Colorado Springs spokesman John B. Leavitt, told potential jurors “that they could render their decision based upon their conscience, rather than the judge’s direction.”
As a result, Judge Spencer Gresham dismissed the potential jurors who had been summoned to court. The trial will resume with a new jury pool on Dec. 4.
Gresham also ordered that no one will be allowed to post signs or hand out leaflets within 100 yards of the courthouse when the trial resumes. Leavitt said the jury commissioner was ordered to collect the fliers that were distributed.
Bruce said he did not know what the fliers said and was not involved in handing them out. He added: “I don’t think it mentioned my name or trespass …. Apparently they want a jury that nobody has said anything to except the judge.”
Bruce had asked for a six-person jury to decide whether he and Douglas Stinehagen broke the law on Aug. 15 when they refused to leave the grounds of a Costco store.
The two men contend they were exercising their First Amendment rights to gather signatures on petitions for what became Ballot Issue 300.
The measure — which forced the city to phase out payments from enterprises to the city — was approved by voters earlier this month.
Bruce will not be able to make the argument that the city had targeted him for prosecution because of his long history of clashing with the city over taxes.
Gresham ruled on Tuesday that Bruce could not use the defense that he was the victim of vindictive prosecution. The ruling came after a 6-hour hearing in which the city attorney, police chief and three city council members testified.
The judge also denied a request by the city attorney to bar the defendants from talking about the content of their petition or changes in police policy.
Gresham also granted a prosecution request that opening arguments in the case be limited to five minutes for each side.
For more court coverage, go to the Sidebar blog at Gazette.com