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Function of Juries & Jurors Doing Justice & Jury Nullification | 06 Aug 2014

-Jury Trial for Philly Mom Prosecuted for Gun in New Jersey


IMG_1132cropIt appears that the case of Shaneen Allen, a Philadelphia woman arrested when she reportedly carried a firearm legally owned in Pennsylvania into New Jersey and was pulled over for a traffic violation, is headed toward trial. Ms. Allen is a mother of two who purchased a handgun for personal protection after being robbed twice. She holds a concealed carry permit that is honored in 30 other states outside of Pennsylvania. Neighboring New Jersey, however, turns out not to be one of those states.

Judge denies motion to dismiss case against Philly mom arrested for legal gun in NJ

A New Jersey judge denied a motion to dismiss charges Tuesday against a Philadelphia mother who mistakenly entered New Jersey, where she was stopped for a traffic violation and found in possession of a handgun loaded with hollow-point bullets.

Shaneen Allen, 27, who is legally permitted to carry a concealed firearm in Pennsylvania, was pulled over in New Jersey’s Atlantic County after making an unsafe lane change in the early morning hours of Oct. 1. She told the officer she had a .380 Berse Thunder handgun during the traffic stop.

Superior Court Judge Michael Donio also denied a motion to overturn a decision not to allow Allen to participate in a pretrial intervention program to avoid jail time.

Allen rejected a prosecutor’s offer to serve 3 1/2 years in prison, her attorney, Evan Nappen, told FoxNews.com.

“That’s exactly what should be the solution here,” Nappen said, referring to the intervention program. “So we’re looking forward to that jury trial.”

A trial date has been set for Oct. 6, said Nappen, who feels his client may find more leniency from jurors.

“I sure do, it’s an incredibly sympathetic case that shouldn’t have to go to trial,” he said. “But I’m confident that 12 ordinary people who understand the injustice here and will correct it.”

Read more about Shaneen Allen’s case here:
‘Honest mistake’ leads to Philly mother facing three years on gun charge
Philly Mom Facing Jail Time for Possessing Licensed Gun
Shaneen Allen, Race, and Gun Control

This case sounds very much like the case of Jonathan Ryan, a Florida landscaper acquitted by a jury of gun charges in New York City, leveled against him after he errantly turned right on a red light in Manhattan. During the traffic stop, it came to light that he had mistakenly left a firearm, legally owned and registered in Florida, in his truck when he drove up from Florida to help his girlfriend move. Ryan faced 3 1/2 years in prison if convicted. Even though he acknowledged having the gun, he argued to the jury that he had put it in the truck more than two years ago and it was an honest mistake that he had forgotten it.

Read about Ryan’s case here:
Florida Landscaper Acquitted of NYC Gun Charges

As bureaucratic regulations proliferate from state to state, it is more and more likely that peaceful people will find themselves in prosecutors’ crosshairs, being maliciously prosecuted for victimless offenses as they try to navigate the bureaucratic morass of firearms-related regulations and restrictions. While gun control advocates often argue that ignorance of the intricate legal web they have created is no excuse for making an honest mistake, even those who staunchly support strict gun controls are being caught up by the very same regulations that they advocated.

Consider the case of Dwayne Ferguson, a Buffalo, New York activist well-known locally for his efforts in pushing for passage of New York’s SAFE Act. This measure bumped carrying a gun on school grounds, which was already classified as a crime, from a misdemeanor to a felony. Ferguson was arrested on an elementary school campus, where he was found to be carrying a pistol that he legally owned. He says that he simply forgot he had the weapon on his person when he entered the gun-free zone where he mentors disadvantaged students.

Read about Ferguson’s case here:
Gun Control Advocate Arrested for Gun Offense to Go Before a Jury

Allen was initially accepted into a pretrial program which would have allowed her to avoid felony charges and incarceration, but the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s office reportedly put a stop to that option for her, instead choosing to make an example of her and prosecute her aggressively. Pine Brook resident Pete Sesnick points out the disturbing double standard and two-tiered system of “justice” administered by the Atlantic City Prosecutor’s office that used its prosecutorial discretion to allow a sports celebrity to avoid trial for charges of a violent crime:

LETTER: Prosecutor gave Ray Rice preferential treatment

When confronted with virtually irrefutable evidence that NFL star Ray Rice beat his then fiancée into unconsciousness in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino, Atlantic County Prosecutor James McClain, through his magnanimous tolerance and generosity, allowed Rice to enter a pretrial intervention program, thus avoiding jail time. And if Rice stays out of trouble for a period of time, he’ll have his record expunged. Darn kind and understanding of the prosecutor, but there’s a larger tragedy associated with the Ray Rice domestic abuse incident.

[Ms. Allen] was arrested in Atlantic County. And we have evidence that the Atlantic County Prosecutor is a kind, tolerant and generous man. After all, he allowed an NFL celebrity, guilty of domestic abuse, to enter the pretrial intervention program. Surely, he would extend the same courtesy to a young mother of two, who hadn’t committed an act of violence and had no criminal history.

Furthermore, the director of the PTI program agreed to admit Allen into the program. Well, it turns out that Prosecutor McClain is not as tolerant of non-celebrity single moms as he is of celebrity, NFL, domestic abusers. He will not allow Shaneen to enter PTI. McClain is apparently determined to send her to prison.

Allen’s attorney, Evan Nappen points out that if the prosecutor’s office won’t see reason and treat his client justly, jurors still have the opportunity to protect her through their legal authority of jury nullification.

Philadelphia mother whose legal gun got her arrested in NJ hopes for leniency

Allen purchased the gun for protection after being robbed twice in the past year, she said, adding that she never even fired it and feels somewhat snake-bitten by the entire ordeal.

“It’s definitely a freak thing,” she said. “I was trying to do a good thing and it turned out so bad — and just like that. I don’t know how to explain it, I really don’t.”

Allen reiterated that she immediately told the officer she had a gun in her 2007 Chevrolet sedan, as well as a concealed carry permit for neighboring Pennsylvania.

“The officer knew there was a gun there, she was completely honest and open,” her attorney, Evan Nappen, said. “There are no aggravating factors in this case; she’s a single mom of two, working in the medical field who was robbed twice and that’s what inspired her to get a gun license in the first place.”

Nappen said potential jurors could invoke jury nullification, a constitutional doctrine allowing juries to acquit defendants who are technically guilty, but don’t deserve to be punished. It can apply in all states, but attorneys are generally not permitted to introduce the concept to jurors.

FIJA does not advocate for or against any case in progress, but we do general educational outreach wherever we have volunteers willing and able to educate their communities. If anyone is interested in doing general educational outreach in the southern New Jersey area, such as hosting a Jury Rights Day event and other outreach, we are looking to put together a volunteer group to start a juror education campaign. Activists are already planning to be out pamphleting at the courthouse from 6-10 October. Please contact us at 406-442-7800, aji@fija.org, or on Facebook by messaging the New Jersey FIJA Facebook page.