Turney v. State (1997)
In Turney v. State, 936 P.2d 533, 541 (Alaska 1997), Frank Turney, a leafleter for the Fully Informed Jury Association, was charged with jury tampering under AS 11.56.590.
This statute provides:
(a) A person commits the crime of jury tampering if the person directly or indirectly communicates with a juror other than as permitted by the rules governing the official proceeding with intent to
(1) influence the juror's vote, opinion, decision, or other action as a juror; or
(2) otherwise affect the outcome of the official proceeding.
(b) Jury tampering is a class C felony.
Turney challenged the constitutionality of the statute as a violation of his First Amendment rights. In its analysis, the Alaska Supreme Court stated:
Speech aimed at influencing the juror's conduct as a juror, i.e., the juror's execution of the responsibilities imposed by the trial court in a particular case, is not constitutionally protected. Justice Frankfurter noted that
In securing freedom of speech, the Constitution is hardly meant to create the right to influence judges or juries. That is no more freedom of speech than stuffing a ballot box is an exercise of the right to vote. Id.
The court went on to conclude that the statute was indeed constitutional and determined:
"In our view, the statute is not so imprecise that persons wishing to engage in constitutionally protected speech would be discouraged from doing so. The statute describes the prohibited conduct and required intent. It distinguishes between speech directed at the jurors who will decide a particular case and speech aimed at the general public ... . Because the conduct must be accompanied by the intent specified by the statute, there is a correlation between the words of the statute and the constitutionally unprotected conduct."
There was no ambiguity in Turney's conduct, as he approached persons wearing "juror" badges inside and outside the courthouse in an effort to have them adopt his jury nullification views to favor his friend on trial.
The Turney Court was careful in its reading of Alaska's jury tampering statute to distinguish "between speech directed at the jurors who will decide a particular case and speech aimed at the general public."