MOUNT HOLLY — Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion’s advocacy efforts took center stage Wednesday before the verdict was read in his drug trial, with the judge threatening to hold him in contempt of court.
Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey notified the defendant and the attorneys that a deliberating juror had contacted his chambers to say he heard Forchion giving an interview about the case in the courthouse parking lot during the lunch break.
Forchion took exception with the report and said he was far from the courthouse, leading to a heated exchange with Delehey.
“The court didn’t see it, but what the court does know is that there has been a persistent attempt to somehow scuttle the judicial process,” Delehey said, noting that he did not think Forchion’s efforts influenced the jury. “It just makes conducting a fair trial difficult.”
When Forchion continued to loudly protest, despite the efforts by the judge and a Burlington County Sheriff’s Department officer to calm him down, Delehey recessed the proceedings.
When he returned, Delehey made it clear that Forchion’s trial tactics had not gone unnoticed, including his handing out of fliers that encouraged jurors to disregard the law and another that told potential jurors the judge would be “lyin’ “ to them about the law.
The judge also said Forchion had signed a court document that went back to the jury with the name “njweedman.com.”
“These documents are aimed at what is known as jury nullification, which says, in effect, jurors should ignore the law. That’s not the law in this state,” Delehey said. “This court has taken into account Mr. Forchion’s passion about the legalization of marijuana, his interest in the outcome of the trial, and the consequences to him in the event of conviction. Accordingly, the court chose to ignore or excuse what it sees as a blatant subterfuge of the jury process.”
“There’s nothing illegal about those fliers, and they didn’t target a specific case,” Forchion said after the trial. “They tell the truth. It’s the judges and lawyers that try to keep the truth down. I hope they (the fliers) do influence other jurors and other courts.”
He was supported in court by family, friends and other medical marijuana patients, including a handful who handed out fliers before court and protested with signs. Forchion was also a regular on New Jersey talk radio and maintained a presence on the Internet throughout the proceedings.
However, when Forchion tried to slip his jury-nullification argument into the trial in his closing argument, he quickly was stopped by Delehey, who had prohibited it in a pretrial order.
Forchion was convicted Wednesday of possession of marijuana, but the jury could not reach a verdict on the more serious charge of possession with the intent to distribute. The Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office said it will retry him. Delehey set a trial date for May 22.
Danielle Camilli: 609-267-7586;
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