Fully Informed Jury Association

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Jury Nullification | 09 Jan 2013

-Peaceful Defendant Convicted by Misinformed Jury Is Sentenced to 10 Years


After a misinformed jury convicted medical marijuana provider Aaron Sundusky of victimless offenses which were legal under state law, a judge has now officially sentenced him to the mandatory minimum ten years in prison.

One-Time Medical Marijuana Distributor Sentenced to Ten-Year Mandatory Minimum

While the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary survived the latest move to shut it down, the one-time owner of several dispensaries in Los Angeles received one of the harshest sentences yet – ten years in prison – after he declined to take a plea deal.

In sentencing Aaron Sandusky Monday for acts that are legal under California law, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said:

In this case, as the defendant was warned, the court’s hands are tied … Whether you agree with the defendant’s position or not.

Unfortunately, Aaron Sandusky’s case once again illustrates the dangerous combination of mandatory minimum sentencing combined with a judges’ power to tilt the playing field in favor of prosecution. This article highlights two pivotal points on which the jury was misinformed in this case:

At trial, Sandusky’s lawyers were precluded from making the argument that Sandusky was complying with state law, and had relied upon statements by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder that they would not prioritize prosecution of individuals complying with state medical marijuana laws. Prosecutors also discouraged the jury from making a “moral” decision about the case by engaging by what is known as jury nullification. The jury instructions even included the sentence: “Congress has defined marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance, making it illegal under federal law. You must disregard any state or local law to the contrary.”

This highlights the importance of sustained and ongoing FIJA activism in our communities. We need to inform everyone of the full rights and responsibilities of jurors LONG before they get inside a courthouse. Judges often misinform jurors explicitly during court proceedings, especially in the context of jury instructions, under color of authority. The earlier potential jurors learn about juror veto, the longer they have to research and think about newly acquired knowledge and to develop the confidence they need to act on it even if instructed otherwise by an authority figure such as a judge.