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GUEST COLUMNIST: Stifling free speech outside Douglas Bruce's trespass trial

November 30, 2009

In response to the Gazette article titled “Jury tampering delays Bruce trespassing trial,” (Nov. 14), I offer some thoughts. 

Most Americans believe that their liberties are safe in courtrooms; that courts will uphold and support their rights. Sadly, in Colorado Springs the opposite is true. This isn’t about jury tampering — it’s about something far worse. It’s about a government bent on suppressing the rights of the people instead of protecting them. 

Here are the relevant facts: A man was peacefully handing out leaflets on the sidewalk outside the Colorado Springs Municipal Court building on Kiowa Street. Anyone who received a flyer had it forcefully confiscated, and then the entire jury pool was dismissed for fear of being “tainted.” The judge responsible for the court’s harsh response is The Hon. Spencer Gresham, who then went on to order that no one be allowed to hand out leaflets within 100 yards of the courthouse. 

So, what was in the flyers that brought forth such an extreme response by the court? They were “True or False” flyers, designed by the American Jury Institute. They explained that when you sit on a jury, you may use your conscience in determining a verdict. They are not specific to any one case, but apply to all criminal trials anywhere in America. 

The flyers discuss “jury nullification,” also known as “jury veto power,” which has been the traditional right of jurors since our nation was founded. Here are some relevant quotes: 

“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” — Thomas Jefferson 

“Jurors should acquit even against the judges’ instruction… if exercising their judgment with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction that the charge of the court is wrong.” — Alexander Hamilton 

“The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.” — John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States.

“It is not only his [the juror’s] right, but his duty… to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though indirect opposition to the direction of the court.” — John Adams, second U.S. President 

Jury nullification is an old and vitally important right for all Americans. It is our last peaceful line of defense against a corrupt and power-hungry government. It enables us to defend our fellow citizens from unconstitutional and unjust laws, by exonerating people who stand accused of violating them. 

Sadly, many judges in the Colorado Springs Municipal Court hate this right, and Judge Gresham is abusing his power to suppress our rights. This isn’t just about jury nullification. It’s also about our First Amendment right to inform our fellow Coloradans about their power as jurors. Judge Gresham knows that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in UNITED STATES v. GRACE, 461 U.S. 171 (1983), protects our right to hand out flyers on sidewalks outside government buildings. Grace held that: “ …they [sidewalks] …are public forums for First Amendment purposes,” and “…the public sidewalks surrounding the Court grounds are no different than other public sidewalks in the city.” 

In spite of this, Gresham is denying this right to the people of Colorado Springs. It should serve as grounds for his removal from the bench. 

During a recent motions hearing, Doug Bruce asked for some water. Judge Gresham said he had no water, and he offered Bruce an empty cup. How perfectly symbolic: A cup devoid of water in a courtroom devoid of liberty. 

If you are disgusted by Gresham’s lawless actions, write to: Mayor & City Council, PO Box 1575, CS CO 80901, or submit an online complaint at, or call a City Council member and lodge a complaint against Judge Spencer Gresham.


Alexander Daube is an Area Coordinator for the American Jury Institute, Readers may contact him by e-mailing:

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