The Wire writers promote jury nullification in Time Magazine

From an article in Time penned by the writers of HBO’s The Wire:

If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will – to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun’s manifesto against the death penalty – no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.

Jury nullification is American dissent, as old and as heralded as the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, who was acquitted of seditious libel against the royal governor of New York, and absent a government capable of repairing injustices, it is legitimate protest. If some few episodes of a television entertainment have caused others to reflect on the war zones we have created in our cities and the human beings stranded there, we ask that those people might also consider their conscience. And when the lawyers or the judge or your fellow jurors seek explanation, think for a moment on Bubbles or Bodie or Wallace. And remember that the lives being held in the balance aren’t fictional.

Full Story: Time.

At Hit and Run, Radley Balko points out:

The one problem with jury nullification is that judges and prosecutors often set perjury traps that pick would-be nullifiers off during the voir dire process. Worse, judges sometimes even wrongly instruct jurors that their only option is to consider the defendant’s guilt or innocence, explicitly instructing that they aren’t to judge the justness or morality of the law itself.

One of the most significant policies drug reformers could get enacted would be to work Congress and state legislatures to pass legislation protecting and preserving the rights of jurors to nullify-or better yet, to even force courts to notify them of that right before deliberation.

See also:

Fully Informed Jury Association.

3 Comments

  1. It is one of our little known rights, and one that the government and the courts have tried their hardest to keep hidden from the people.

  2. Jury nullification puts law=justice on trial.
    The bigger issue is that although defender attorneys know about it, judges hate it so much that they’ll bar the lawyer from mentioning it or penalize them enough that they won’t. Essentially all of those facts about the cost & mass of the Drug War is deemed “irrelevant”.
    It underlies the shift in “government by the people” to “government over the people”.

    See the past –

    “The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.”
    – Chief Justice John Jay, U.S. Supreme Court Georgia v Brailsford (3 Dallas 1, 1794)

    “The jury has the right to determine both the law and the facts.”
    – Samuel Chase, Supreme Court Justice 1804 signer of The Declaration of Independence.

    “There are five separate tribunals to veto laws: representative,senate, executive, judicial and jury. It’s the right and duty of juries to hold all laws invalid that are unjust or oppressive, in their opinion. If a jury does not have this right, the government is absolute and the people are slaves. Is it absurd that twelve ignorant men should sit by and see the law decided erroneously? The justices are untrustworthy and are fond of power and authority. To allow them to dictate the law would surrender all property, liberty and rights of the people into the hands of arbitrary power.”
    – Lysander Spooner “An Essay On the Trial by Jury” 1852

    “Jury lawlessness is the great corrective of law in its actual administration.”
    – Dean Roscoe Pound, 44 Am L Rev 12 at 18 (1910)

    “The jury has the power to bring in a verdict in the teeth of both law and facts.”
    – Oliver Wendel Holmes, Horning v DC 254 US 35,138 (1920)

    “If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by the judge and contrary to the evidence. This power of the jury is not always contrary to the interests of justice.”
    – U.S. v Moylan 417 F.2d 1002 at 1006 (1969)

    “The pages of history shine on instances of the jury’s exercise of its prerogative to disregard instructions of the judge; for example, acquittals under the fugitive slave law.”
    – U.S. v Dougherty 473 F.2d 1113 at 1130 (1972)

  3. זה עוד לא הכל לrak2 מאגר פרסומים ענק ועדכני המאפשר לכם לחסוך ברכישת מוצרים יד שניה . ועכשיו חדש סוף סוף נפתחה נישה חדשה של פרסום בתי מלון אטרקטיביים ! כדאי מאוד לגלוש ברק 2 – זה המקום לפרסם .

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