Fully Informed Jury Association

Are you fully informed about jury nullification?

Jury Nullification | 03 Feb 2014

-Jurors Can Exercise the Power of Pardon with Jury Nullification


Jury BoxJesse Webster, with no prior criminal record, was convicted of conspiring to distribute cocaine. Due to mandatory minimums, he was sentenced to life without parole. Judge James Zagel thought the mandatory minimum was too harsh-20 years or so was what he would have sentenced this man to for a first-time, victimless offense.

Now the U.S. Department of Justice claims to be looking for incarcerated people who are candidates for clemency. Of the thousands of men and women in prison for victimless crimes, the Obama administration in December only found 8 people it deemed worthy of restoring their freedom after government destroyed their lives.

Such is the “compassion” of the state. Does this seem fair to you?

As a juror, you have the power to exercise discretion and vote Not Guilty when a just verdict requires it. You can and should exercise jury nullification and refuse to harm someone who has not harmed anyone. Jury nullification is your power of pardon when you serve on a jury.

The right remedy for overly harsh drug sentences

In 1995, when Webster was 28 years old and living on Chicago’s South Side, he was convicted of conspiring to distribute cocaine. Despite having no record, mandatory minimums in place at the time got him a life sentence without parole.

At the time, and again in a letter last fall supporting a commutation of his sentence, the judge said life was too much. Given discretion, Judge James Zagel said, he thought 20 years or so would do it, roughly what Webster has already served.

Webster remains in jail, penitent for having once been a drug dealer but sure that he deserves to one day step foot out of prison.

He is right, as are thousands more like him in who are in federal prisons across the U.S. serving unnecessarily harsh — and costly — prison sentences. The excessive sentences are not only destroying lives but overcrowding prisons and siphoning off federal dollars that could be better used to prevent crime and prosecute violent criminals.