Similar to what we saw in San Diego just a couple of years ago, we have great news from New Hampshire, another state that has benefitted from long-term jury nullification outreach in recent years.
On 30 September, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office issued a report concluding an investigation into victimless cannabis-related activities alleged to have involved a number of New Hampshire state legislators. In addition to failing to procure enough evidence to substantiate charges against most of the individuals targeted in the investigation, the report cites the possibility of jury nullification as a reason for not prosecuting two individuals on cannabis-related charges:
Lachance appears to have purchased marijuana for what would now be considered medically appropriate use. It is reasonable to conclude that a jury would likely exercise its nullification prerogative to acquit Lachance of dry conspiracy charges under these circumstances.
Sufficient evidence exists to charge Tasker with several dry conspiracy counts for the marijuana transactions he arranged or engaged in with Bouldin, Lachance, Tucker, and Wright. Under the circumstances, however, prosecution would not be fruitful.
At least until Tasker was arrested and the scope of his alleged criminal activity became apparent, each of these individuals believed—wrongly, given his other alleged crimes—that Tasker was acting in a humanitarian capacity by selling marijuana to needy people before the drug was medically available. It is reasonable to conclude that a jury would reject dry conspiracy charges under these circumstances.
San Diego experienced a similar phenomenon just a couple of years ago. San Diego Americans for Safe Access conducted several months of regular juror rights education at the Hall of Justice in San Diego. In the space of less than a year, they went from trials with one day of jury selection ending in conviction at the end of the week, to trials taking more than a day for jury selection and having to come back the next week to conclude, to hung juries and acquittals, and finally, with the prosecutor dropping medical cannabis-related charges when it became evident that juries would not convict.
This photo of prospective jurors reading FIJA literature on their way into the Hall of Justice was sent to us the same week that two notable verdicts were delivered inside—one was a hung jury 9-3 in favor of acquittal (which ended when the judge granted a motion to dismiss with prejudice) in a medical cannabis trial of Tim O’Shea, and the other were Not Guilty verdicts on all 13 counts of so-called “vandalism” in the sidewalk chalking case of Jeff Olson.
Understandably, many people only want to go out to courthouses to hand out FIJA brochures when a particular case is in progress. They may view any effort made outside of that narrow window to be a waste, but what we have seen most often is actually the opposite. Without additional encounters with the idea of jury nullification, a single mention of it may not be enough to give someone the confidence to use it.
“We need to remember that, for most people, the idea of jury nullification is pretty radical,” points out long-time New Hampshire juror rights educator Joel Valenzuela. “Humans are naturally slow to accept new ideas. A juror won’t believe they can nullify until they’ve heard it about a dozen times. Jury rights activists need consistency to be effective.”
Joel hits on an important point that is well known in the marketing industry: it takes more than one contact with a product, service, or in our case, an idea, before a person actually acts on a call to action. Handing a brochure to someone is one potential contact, but a long-term campaign increases potential contacts—and the likelihood of people acting on the information we teach—dramatically. That brochure may be passed from person to person and result in people seeking out more information online. People may see you more than once as they pass by the area where you are working week after week, your campaign may be covered in the media, and you may be called upon to speak to civic groups in your community.
It is this level of visibility that makes possible results such as those in San Diego and New Hampshire. If you are interested in joining or starting an ongoing juror rights education campaign, please contact us. We can help with training, materials, strategizing and more!