Fully Informed Jury Association

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Jury Nullification | 18 Sep 2012

Farmer’s Raw Milk Sales Trial Is On Hold


FIJA does not advocate for or against any particular case. We do, however, track cases to which the issue of jury nullification is relevant. This is an update in the case of Vernon Hershberger, an organic dairy farmer charged with multiple misdemeanors for alleged licensing offenses related to raw milk sales.

Farmer’s Raw Milk Sales Trial Is On Hold

The trial of a Sauk County dairy farmer accused of crimes stemming from the sale of raw milk has been postponed until January.

Previously scheduled to begin next week, Vernon Hershberger’s trial will be closely watched by raw-milk advocates who have argued for the right to buy unpasteurized dairy products straight from the farm.

Hershberger, an Amish farmer near Loganville, has become the poster child for a controversy that’s pitted farmers against state government and has boiled over to other states where raw milk sales are illegal or restricted.

The charges against Hershberger may hinge on whether jurors selected for his trial accept a strategy raised by the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

That organization, based in Falls Church, Va., has chosen to defend the Sauk County farmer and raise a thorny legal tactic called jury nullification.

“A question that has been raised about the trial is this: can the jury hearing the case legally engage in jury nullification and return a verdict of not guilty on the charges no matter what the facts and the law of the case are? The answer is ‘yes,'” wrote fund attorney Pete Kennedy.

That could be walking a fine legal line, however, as jury nullification is not popular with judges and prosecutors who believe a verdict should be based strictly on the facts and the law.

During a trial, lawyers aren’t even allowed to bring up the subject of jury nullification, said Dan Blinka, a law school professor at Marquette University.

But a jury will not be punished for voting its conscience, Blinka said.

“Usually this comes about when a jury believes that someone is going to be too harshly punished for what happened, or they have sympathy for the defendant,” he added.

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