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Jury Nullification | 15 Aug 2013

-Jury Nullification One Strategy to Defend the Unhoused from Abusive City Ordinances


As the California town of Palo Alto considered (yet again) criminalizing living in a vehicle, Aram James advocates jury nullification as a strategy to push back against an unjust, inhumane, expensive, and wasteful policy designed to demonize and punish the unhoused.

Palo Alto to Decide Whether Sleeping in Car Should Result in Jail Sentence

Trial of just one such case, in the courts of this county will cost in the neighborhood of $10,000 a day, monies clearly better spent in finding permanent solutions to homelessness.

Each case charged under this law of preventing people with no other choice from living in their car will be defended by raising the very time consuming, complex and expensive “Defense of Necessity.” (See: Defense of Necessity in homeless cases: http://law.justia.com/cases/california/caapp4th/69/382.html & http://www.wcl.american.edu/journal/lawrev/50/fasanelli.pdf)

Other viable defenses to charges brought under this ordinance would include: discriminatory enforcement, outrageous government conduct, and defense by way of juries exercising their inherent power to vote not guilty despite a clear violation of the law — because the jury concludes i.e., that a particular law is morally repugnant i.e., such as prosecuting member of the homeless and car dwelling community for the most de minimis conduct. For more on Jury Nullification see: http://fija.org/

The ordinance passed in Palo Alto on a 7-2 vote, putting peaceful human beings at risk of 6 months in jail plus $1000 fine for entirely victimless behavior.

Palo Alto Passes New Ordinance To Criminalize Homelessness

There are more than 400 homeless men and women who live in Palo Alto, according to a 2010 estimate, and as many as 50 of them currently find refuge in their cars. If they don’t find other accommodations or leave town in the next six months when the law goes fully into effect, they could face six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.