[Denver] On August 4, First Judicial District Chief Judge Thomas Woodford signed
a motion filed by the District Attorney to dismiss the contempt of court case against
Laura Kriho, ending a four-year saga that brought the issues of jury rights and jury
nullification into the international spotlight. Legal experts say the Kriho case was the
first time in over 300 years that a juror was prosecuted based on evidence of how they
deliberated and voted in the jury room.
Kriho was tried for contempt of court after she was the lone holdout on a jury in a
methamphetamine possession case in May 1996. In February 1997, Gilpin County District
Court Judge Henry Nieto (now a Colorado appellate judge) convicted Kriho of a
precedent-setting new crime: failure to volunteer answers to questions that were not
actually asked of her during jury selection. In April 1999, the Colorado Court of Appeals
reversed Krihos contempt conviction. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court
had improperly invaded the secrecy of the jury room by allowing testimony from other
jurors about jury room deliberations.
The Court of Appeals also ruled that their was insufficient evidence to convict Kriho
of contempt based on the facts that Kriho was a volunteer for the Colorado Hemp Initiative
Project and that she possessed knowledge about the legal doctrine of jury
"nullification", a jurors right to vote according to their conscience and
nullify unjust laws. Kriho was not asked any questions about these issues during jury
selection and her failure to volunteer this information was not a crime.
However, the Court of Appeals said that the District Attorney could re-try Kriho on the
"one remaining allegation" that Kriho intentionally failed to volunteer
information during jury selection about a 12-year-old deferred judgment (legal acquittal)
for possession of LSD that was supposed to be wiped from her record, even though she
wasnt asked any questions relating to it.
First Judicial District D.A. Dave Thomas decided to ask for a dismissal of the contempt
case "on the grounds that it is in the best interest of justice given the passage of
time and evidence unavailability due to the appellate process." On Friday, Judge
Woodford granted the D.A.'s motion to dismiss.
"I am so glad this is finally over," says Laura Kriho. "I hope that by
fighting and winning against this persecution that I have helped protect other jurors from
going through what I did. The jury is meant to be the conscience of the community. Jurors
should be free to deliberate and to vote however they deem fit, without fear of later
prosecution if they vote against the governments case. Jurors should be respected
for doing their civic duty, not held in contempt. Jurors should be praised, not
"The belief that the jury selection process should be used to eliminate
independent-minded jurors is at the root of Laura's prosecution and conviction. The idea
should never have occurred to either a judge or a prosecutor that a juror could be
criminally prosecuted for failure to disclose what she was not asked", says
Krihos attorney, Paul Grant. "I hope that judges and prosecutors learn from the
Kriho case that it is a mistake to prosecute jurors who don't accept the government's view
of the evidence or the law. The very purpose of a jury trial is to resist oppression by
the government, without interference or intimidation from any quarter, including the
"It's good to see that the light of sanity can penetrate even the Gilpin County
justice system," says Capp Sehota, co-founder of the Jury Rights Project.
Write D.A. Dave Thomas and congratulate him on his wisdom in dropping the prosecution
of Laura Kriho.