What happens when a free speech activist is ignored by the authority he seeks to condemn?
That's what happened to Julian Heicklen on Monday — pretty much nothing. No arrest. No confrontation with law enforcement. No civil disobedience quashed by the strong arm of the law.
The retired chemistry professor traveled from his home in New Jersey to the Orange County Courthouse just to defy an order by Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry, prohibiting the distribution of jury information pamphlets to jurors.
Once on Friday and twice on Monday, Heicklen, 79, stood at the foot of the courthouse and handed out the literature, which encouraged jurors to vote their conscience and to "hang" a jury with their votes if they felt so inclined.
On Monday, he repeatedly handed the pamphlets to prospective or seated jurors. And on one occasion, he handed the "jury rights" information to a man wearing a juror's badge within a few feet of an Orange County deputy.
That act seemed to be a clear violation of Perry's order committed right in front of one of the officials responsible for enforcing the dictate, but nothing was done to stop Heicklen's obvious defiance. And for that reason Heicklen proudly claimed a victory.
"This is a win!" Heicklen said after handing out the last of his pamphlets. "I'm not here to get arrested. I'm here to get my First Amendment rights back for you people."
It remained unclear whether Heicklen would get sent a summons or citation in the mail.
Heicklen, an ardent supporter of jury nullification, which calls for jurors to ignore laws with which they disagree, said the refusal of law enforcement to enforce the order in his case would make it difficult for officials to do it with anyone else in the future.
"I was the jury for the judge, and I've nullified his order," Heicklen said.
Perry issued his order in late January, after learning that the Fully Informed Jury Association was handing out similar literature on courthouse grounds. Concerned about the integrity of the jury system, Perry ordered a prohibition of "leaflets or other materials to summoned jurors containing written or pictorial information tending to influence" those jurors.
His order also blocks anyone from "approaching a summoned juror for the purpose of displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education or counseling with information tending to influence summoned jurors on any matter, question, cause, or proceeding which may be pending…"
None of Perry's language sat well with FIJA or Heicklen, who has spoken out against government policies he has opposed for most of his life, including drug laws. On Monday, his T-shirt read, "Coalition for Medical Marijuana, New Jersey."
FIJA has challenged Perry's order in court, and despite Heicklen's non-arrest Monday, the group still does not condone violating the order until the matter is litigated and the group gets a favorable ruling.
Heicklen, meanwhile, said he didn't want to wait for the appeal to run its course. He wanted to test Perry's order by defying it, and for now, at least, it appears Heicklen has done just that – with no repercussions.
Deputies did hand him a copy of the order Monday morning, but they did not return when he resumed distribution of the fliers at about noon. Whether their inaction had anything to do with the cameras following Heicklen, he may never know for sure.
He has no immediate plans to come back and test the order.
If Heicklen wanted a revolution, he didn't exactly find one in Orlando. But perhaps the authority's silence in response to his exercise of free speech was enough to keep this veteran "Tyranny Fighter" content – at least for now.
"As of right now, we've beaten the order," the affable practitioner of civil disobedience said. "Judge Perry now has to make some decisions. They obviously decided not to arrest me on the spot."