Fully Informed Jury Association

Are you fully informed about jury nullification?

FIJActivist & Jury Nullification | 13 Dec 2013

-Minnesota NORML Hosts Talk on Jury Nullification

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MNNORMLMinnesota NORML will host Kirsten Tynan of the Fully Informed Jury Association at its December monthly meeting to discuss jurors’ rights and responsibilities in delivering a just verdict, including their right and duty to conscientiously acquit when a just verdict requires it. This function of the jury is also known as jury nullification.

Jury nullification was used extensively during alcohol Prohibition, contributing to its repeal just 13 years after it was passed. Minnesota NORML’s mission is to repeal Minnesota’s cannabis prohibition laws so that responsible uses of cannabis by adults are no longer subject to penalty. With the War on Drugs destroying lives for more than 40 years now and wasting more than a trillion dollars that could be put to other use, it is crucial for everyone to be informed not only of how jurors can protect peaceful people in their communities with their Not Guilty votes, but also of how their votes ripple out beyond the courthouse to influence law enforcement and long-term policy change.

The meeting will take place:
Saturday, 28 December 2013
10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Pleasant Hill Library
1490 South Frontage Road
Hastings, MN

We are working on organizing some public outreach in Hastings after the meeting. Hastings is the county seat of Dakota County, whose county attorney James Backstrom is a prominent prohibitionist in Minnesota and author of an article entitled Marijuana, America’s most dangerous illegal drug, which is too silly to link to here. Educational materials to hand out will be provided. Wear some comfortable shoes if you would like to join us!

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 06 Dec 2013

-Private Prisons Drive Need for Jurors to Understand Jury Nullification

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Fence_of_Prison-BPOWhat is driving the high rate of incarceration, which is largely populated with non-violent offenders who have committed victimless offenses but have harmed nobody? For-profit incarceration. In fact, some states are contractually obligated to provide a certain quota of prisoners to private prisons, regardless of the actual crime rates.

What?!? Private Prisons Suing States for Millions If They Don’t Stay Full

In the Public Interest has reviewed more than 60 contracts between private prison companies and state and local governments across the country, and found language mentioning “quotas” for prisoners in nearly two-thirds of those contracts reviewed. Those quotas can range from a mandatory occupancy of, for example, 70 percent occupancy in California to up to 100 percent in some prisons in Arizona.

The unjust effects of such agreements are far-reaching:

What makes these deals so odious and unscrupulous? Take a look:

1) The offer included a demand that those prisons remain 90 percent full for the duration of the operating agreement. You know what that means: if there are not enough prisoners then there will be an unspoken push for police to arrest more people and to have the courts send more to prison for petty, frivolous and nonviolent crimes. There will also be a “nudge” for judges to hand down longer or maximum sentences to satisfy this “quota.”

2) Private prison companies have also backed measures such as “three-strike” laws to maintain high prison occupancy.

3) When the crime rate drops so low that the occupancy requirements can’t be met, taxpayers are left footing the bill for unused facilities.

As the for-profit prison system increasingly incentivizes government abuse of decent people for the purpose of meeting contractual incarceration quotas, fully informed juries become more important in protecting our communities from this insidious injustice. Conscientiously exercising the power of jury nullification, jurors can protect our human rights from being sold out for the benefit of corporate profits.

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Jurors Doing Justice & Jury Nullification | 05 Dec 2013

-Happy Repeal Day Thanks to Jury Nullification!

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BirneyNoBeerSoldToPolicemenRepeal Day marks the anniversary of the 5 December 1933 ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution repealing alcohol prohibition. After fewer than thirteen years, the cultural and political climate in the U.S. forced an end to the federal criminalization of numerous victimless alcohol offenses.

How did the people convey the message to the government that they were not willing to be complicit in the legalized abuse of peaceful people? In part, through jury nullification! In some jurisdictions, jurors nullified as many as 60% of alcohol violations brought before them. Defendants’ demands to exercise their rights to trial by jury resulted in courts so clogged with cases that many weren’t tried for more than a year after the alleged violations. Prosecutors turned increasingly to extremely lenient plea bargains, not at all on par with typical offers made in drug prohibition cases today, to persuade defendants to forego jury trials. But those who insisted on trials frequently won Not Guilty verdicts.

I have been scouring newspaper archives for examples of such cases, and I wanted to share with you the following snippet of a Prohibition-era article from The New York Times:

JurorsDrankEvidence copy

In 1928, jurors were hauled in before a judge to explain their curious verdict in which they found defendant George Beven Not Guilty of an alcohol violation. They had been left alone in the deliberation room with about a pint of liquor as evidence. From The New York Times:

Sworn to tell the truth, the eight jurors took the stand and gave their stories as to what happened in the jury room during the three hours it took to determine the case of Beven, who was acquitted of violation of the State Prohibition act.

The jurors all admitted drinking the pint of liquor which was the prosecution’s chief exhibit against Beven. All denied it was consumed without an honorable motive. They stated it was sampled to determine whether it was of alcoholic content and actually constituted a violation of the liquor law.

I love this jury! They took their duty so seriously that first they sampled the liquor to ensure that a violation had occurred. Then, upon discovering that there was no evidence on which to base a conviction, they dutifully acquitted. These jurors showed exactly the amount of respect for the law that it was due—and that was NO RESPECT AT ALL. Throughout Prohibition, prosecutions were often treated as laughing matters as they ought to have been treated. Prosecutors were frequently embarrassed by their failure to win jurors’ Guilty votes, even when it was obvious that the law had been broken. In short, it was an exercise in humiliation for government officials, and an exercise that would not continue indefinitely. Jurors, through jury nullification, rendered alcohol violations impractical to prosecute. Their vetoes sent a strong message that contributed to the eventual repeal of Prohibition, not thirteen years after it was enacted.

Happy Repeal Day!

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Jury Nullification | 04 Dec 2013

-Anti-Jury Nullification Prosecutor Complains of Lack of Funds

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Jury BoxReason’s Jacob Sullum shares some of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s complaints about the effect of sequestration on his office. Bharara complains that without more money, his office will simply get smaller and smaller each year. Not such a bad idea, says Sullum, pointing out his “mission” involves prosecuting lots of offenses that shouldn’t be, or aren’t even crimes, including handing out jury nullification literature:

Imagine How Much Preet Bharara Could Accomplish If He Had Even Fewer Resources

Sounds like good news to me, since Bharara’s understanding of his mission includes pernicious uses of taxpayer money such as prosecuting people for helping New Yorkers play poker online, for connecting drug suppliers with consumers, and even for passing out pamphlets about jury nullification. If anything, Bharara’s office would benefit from the prioritization that budget cuts require. Even in the speech where he whines about not having enough money to protect the public, he brags about “shut[ting] down a major on-line currency service used by criminals [Liberty Reserve, presumaby] and the world’s largest underground website for drugs and contraband [i.e., Silk Road].” A look at Bharara’s recent press releases reinforces the impression that sequestration so far has left him plenty of resources to prosecute people for things that should not be crimes…

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FIJA in the News & Interviews | 15 Nov 2013

-Jury Nullification on Equalitarians on Calgary’s Phresh FM

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Jury BoxKirsten Tynan recently discussed with Suza Singh of Equalitarians on Calgary’s Phresh FM the juror’s right to rely on conscience and vote Not Guilty when a just verdict requires it, even if the law has technically been broken. Clips of the interview are interspersed with an interview of an in-studio guest, including a discussion of the two-tier legal system under which the wealthy and politically connected are protected from punishment under the same laws being used to destroy other people’s lives. Listen to the interview on SoundCloud here:

Jury Nullification on Equalitarians on Calgary’s Phresh FM

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 13 Nov 2013

-Jury Nullification Can Stop Abuses in Virginia’s Unfair Legal System

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Jury BoxToday the Justice Policy Institute released a report characterizing Virginia’s justice system as expensive, ineffective, and unfair. Despite decreasing violent crime rates, consist with the rest of the country, the number of arrests in Virginia has barely budged, dropping a mere 1.1%, says JPI.

Virginia’s Justice System: Expensive, Ineffective and Unfair

With the 8th highest jail incarceration rate in the U.S., 1 of every 214 adult Virginians is behind bars in county jails across the state; African-American youth over-represented in the juvenile justice system; and the Commonwealth’s overreliance on incarceration – largely as a result of arresting Virginians for drug offenses – Virginia has an over-burdened correctional system unable to consistently provide services or safety.

Here is the full report in pdf format:
Virginia’s Justice System: Expensive, Ineffective and Unfair (full JPI report)

The report points to increasing drug arrests as a source of revenue enhancement for law enforcement as violent crimes decrease:

Similar to other jurisdictions across the country, drug arrests in Virginia have increased in contrast to violent and property offense arrests, to a large extent negating the decline in overall crime. As more police funding has been tied to performance measures (i.e., number of arrests), police departments have often been forced to shift focus to low‐level, non‐violent drug violations as a means to help maintain or increase numbers and, thus, funding. Unable to make arrest quotas through arrests for serious crime, enforcement has turned to arresting people who otherwise would go unnoticed and pose a relatively low public safety risk to communities. As drug crimes are rarely reported by community members to police, upward trends in this area clearly reflect a shift in the use of law enforcement resources toward crimes that must be sought out rather than reported.

It also illustrates how Virginia courtrooms are playing fields tilted in favor of prosecution:

The state’s indigent defense system has been heavily criticized as insufficient. The system, which pits prosecutors representing the state against public defenders or court‐appointed attorneys for those who cannot afford their own counsel, claims to put these two parties on equal footing. However, while the two positions are paid through similar pay schedules, prosecutors in many jurisdictions are given salary supplements that can raise their pay substantially and have more access to funds beneficial in preparing and presenting a case, such as expert witness fees.13 Court‐appointed defense attorneys, on the other hand, must work within statutory pay caps that greatly limit the amount of time and effort they devote to each case.

Additionally, the appointment of an attorney for those who cannot afford one, does not actually come free in Virginia. Defendants may be charged “up to $1,235 per count for some felonies” for a public defender’s services. Virginia is one of only a few states that does not currently have provisions for these charges to be waived. Of the fifteen states with the largest prison populations, thirteen impose a charge for counsel, often discouraging defendants from accepting counsel; a practice that makes conviction and commitment more likely.

Economically-disadvantaged members of society are arrested for vices that have been criminalized, and then they are denied the tools necessary to successfully surmount the legal hurdles they are forced to deal with, making conviction much more likely. It is not surprise then that, according to JPI, “on an average day one of every 214 adult Virginians are in jail” and that “More Virginians are in prison than in jail; one of every 179 people.”.

Drug enforcement also disproportionately affects people of color, says JPI. African Americans make up less than 20% of the adult population of Virginia, which is grossly out of sync with the arrest data:

In 2011, more than 16,000 African Americans were arrested for drug offenses in Virginia, 44 percent of all drug arrests in the state. This phenomenon is not new; Human Rights Watch reported that, in 2006, African American drug arrests in the state made up 53 percent of all drug arrests. Research has shown that African American drug use is typically less than that of whites, on the whole, making their overrepresentation a function of justice system priorities rather than an equitable response to law violations.

Policy change may be years in coming, but fortunately, Virginians need not wait to bring justice to their legal system. Servings as jurors, they can ALREADY serve justice by exercising the juror’s traditional, legal authority of jury nullification and refuse to enforce unjust laws against their neighbors. Each time another person is forced into the legal system, lives are destroyed, families are broken, and communities are torn further apart. It is each person’s highest duty as a juror, not to punish people because the government wants them to do so, but to deliver a just verdict, even if it means setting aside the law to do so. And in consistently doing so, juries in Virginia can send feedback to the legal system, discouraging government agents from pursuing profit by harming peaceful people and throwing society into chaos.

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Jury Nullification | 12 Nov 2013

-Jury Nullification: Your Most Powerful Vote

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Jury BoxHere we are a week after Election Day, when millions of U.S. voters dutifully went to the polls to push buttons for candidates and issues. But you may still be called upon in coming weeks and months to exercise your most powerful vote as a juror.

When you vote in a political election:
-your vote may be just one of thousands or millions of votes
-most voters have little or no contact with other voters
-typically your vote only counts if you are in the majority
-your vote only matters if it is accurately counted, a sketchy prospect given today’s voting methods
-your vote may be “interpreted” differently by government administrators or judges, or it may be overturned completely by the legislature

When you vote on a jury:
-your vote is just one of twelve at the most, and sometimes just one of six
-you deliberate with your fellow jurors and have an opportunity to influence their votes
-your single Not Guilty vote can hang a jury in most courts in the United States
-it is publicly evident whether your vote has been counted accurately when the verdict is announced
-if a jury unanimously votes “Not Guilty”, that verdict cannot be overturned

Your “Not Guilty” vote is your most powerful vote. First, it allows you to protect the life and human rights of a peaceful person against persecution by prosecution. By voting Not Guilty, you can protect a person’s reputation, relationships, education, livelihood, family, freedom, and even life. But beyond that, your vote can send a message to police, prosecutors, judges, and legislators that their harassment and cruelty toward members of your community will not be tolerated.

You cannot be required to check your conscience at the courthouse door. When a just verdict requires setting aside the law, consider jury nullification.

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Jury Nullification | 10 Nov 2013

-Understand What Is At Stake When Considering Jury Nullification

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Cannabis_sativa_(Köhler)Often we hear in the FIJA office from or about jurors who initially voted Not Guilty, but changed their vote to Guilty because they couldn’t convince the other jurors. This change of vote is often associated with the holdout juror not wanting to waste their own time any longer. Perhaps they wish to get home for dinner, not miss the football game or concert to which they have tickets, they worry about work piling up in the office in their absence, etc.

Before voting Guilty, jurors should be fully aware of what is at stake for the person they are about to convict. It’s not a simple matter of being locked up in a dorm room where the prisoner is taken care of as a human being. Prisons and even jails can be extremely punishing environments- more punishing than they are billed to the public as by prison proponents and often more punishing than is warranted by a given offense.

As an example, consider the case of Michael Saffioti. Saffioti failed to make a court date regarding a misdemeanor pot offense and was jailed. In jail he was fed something that triggered a life-threatening food allergy, which went unaddressed by corrections officers. A little over an hour later, he was dead.

Because of 12 individuals’ Guilty votes, or one person’s failure to maintain a Not Guilty vote and hang the jury, Saffioti received a de facto death sentence for a misdemeanor pot violation. Had one juror considered and opted to exercise jury nullification, this man would be alive today. Here is the even uglier irony of the situation: 4 months later, his offense would be legalized in Washington state. Had one single person hung the jury, it is likely that his case would have been abandoned by prosecutors given the change in the law.

Today’s Drug War Outrage: Man Dies In Jail Cell After Misdemeanor Pot Offense

Saffioti’s food allergies were apparently so severe that he was sometimes called “bubble boy.” His condition required constant attention. According to his mother, the knowledge that the smallest break in vigilance could result in his death caused Saffioti a lot of anxiety. Understandably so. She says he smoked pot to help relieve that anxiety. As both Greenfield and Vankin point out, the cruel irony here is that four months after Saffioti’s death, recreational pot was legalized in Washington state.

The story is reminiscent of the Jonathan Magbie tragedy. Magbie was a quadriplegic who was allowed to die in a Washington, D.C. jail cell while serving a 10-day sentence for possession of pot. He was jailed despite no prior convictions, and in spite of his need of constant care to stay alive. According to his mother, Magbie smoked pot to treat the effects of his paralyzation. Medical pot is now legal in D.C., and the city looks poised to at least decriminalize pot for recreational use, if not legalize it outright.

Our rumbling stomachs, our social events, our workplaces- these all pale in comparison to the possible damage done to another human being, up to and including his death, if knuckle under to peer pressure during jury deliberations. If our consciences tell us that a just verdict is Not Guilty, we must summon the fortitude and resolve to maintain that vote even if we can’t convince others to agree with us. A hung jury is better for the defendant than a Guilty verdict, as this tragedy clearly shows.

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Function of Juries | 10 Nov 2013

-Is Mixing Drug and Weapons Charges a Strategy to Undermine Jury Rights?

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Cannabis_sativa_(Köhler)IMG_1132cropMore and more I’m noticing cases that involve BOTH drug and firearms charges, including this one in which a Seattle robbery victim who was tied up and held at gunpoint is being charged for both marijuana- and firearm-related offenses because he defensively shot at the people who broke into his home and stole pot and guns from him. For example, this prosecution of a Seattle medical marijuana grower for his defensive use of a firearm during a home invasion in which he was bound and held at gunpoint by his captors:

Maple Valley Medical Marijuana Grower Charged in Self-Defense Shooting

A Maple Valley man accused of shooting two people during a home-invasion robbery at his home and marijuana grow now faces federal charges, as do his alleged assailants.

Investigators contend Justin Loken was growing and selling marijuana from his suburban house in August when he shot a robber and an unwitting accomplice after a home-invasion robbery. Loken, a 38-year-old medical marijuana supplier, now faces years in federal prison if convicted and could lose his house.

One might wonder:
1. In an environment where marijuana prohibition is losing favor, is mixing firearm and drug charges a strategy to poison the jury into leaning toward conviction? After all, many who support legalization are unfriendly to firearm ownership, and many who support gun ownership rights are unfriendly to legalization efforts.

2. Given that the presence of guns and drugs together frequently triggers harsh mandatory minimums, is this a strategy being used to bully defendants into taking a plea bargain and to punish those who don’t forego their right to trial by jury with harsh sentencing if they are convicted?

These comments from the robbery victim’s lawyer suggest that this is fertile territory for federal prosecutors:

Speaking Friday, Loken’s defense attorney Keith Hall said it appears federal prosecutors have drawn a line and will prosecute marijuana growers who use guns to protect themselves.

“People just don’t know this,” said Hall of Newton & Hall Attorneys at Law. “If you are going to have a marijuana grow and you’re going to have guns around, you’re going to get in trouble. …

“The law is clear, and how (federal prosecutors) apply the law can sometimes change, but it appears to me that they’re going to go after these people.”

oken opened fire on the SUV and a car the men were standing near, the detective said in charging papers, shooting Clay and a woman who’d been duped into driving one of the men to the robbery. According to charging papers, Loken said one of the men was trying to shoot him with an AR-15-style assault rifle he’d just stolen from Loken’s home.

Hall said his client’s claim that he fired defending himself has not been disputed.

“I have heard nobody say that it was anything more than my client defending his life,” Hall said. “To me, it’s a fairly straight forward self-defense shooting following a home invasion.”

Click through for the entire article.

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FIJA in the News & Jury Nullification | 09 Nov 2013

-Support for Jury Nullification on Display in D.C.

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Joe Wolverton discusses in this article in The New American the billboards on display in Washington, D.C. informing everyone that “Good jurors nullify bad laws”. Wolverton points out that, despite prosecutors’ displeasure with this educational effort, jury nullification is not new and, indeed, is a fundamental element of our legal system.

Support for Jury Nullification on Display in D.C.

So, we can see that the idea that juries may act contrary to the will of a judge is nothing new in American law and in fact it is an act of resistance to government oppression that our Founders believed to be fundamental in a Republic that was to remain free under the rule of law, rather than enslaved according to the rule of men.

Activists in several states are promoting the practice of jury nullification as a way to prevent the miscarriage of justice by the judiciary and the police.

Wolverton closes with this paragraph, which closely mirrors FIJA’s home page:

The Constitution guarantees the right to trial by jury. This means that the government must bring its case before a jury of the people if government wants to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property. In defense of those “unalienable rights,” indeed, as the last line of defense, jurors can reject government tyranny by refusing to convict those subjected to prosecution for violating unjust laws.

We certainly agree!

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Function of Juries | 09 Nov 2013

-Anderson Case Illustrates for Jurors Bias in the Courtroom

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Jury BoxJurors should understand the case of disgraced former Williamson County, Texas district attorney Ken Anderson as a telling illustration of how the legal system is tilted in favor of prosecution.

Ken Anderson to serve 10 days in jail

Former Williamson County district attorney Ken Anderson will serve 10 days in jail and give up his law license to settle accusations that he hid favorable evidence in the 1987 trial of Michael Morton, who served almost 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

During an afternoon hearing in Georgetown, District Judge Kelly Moore found Anderson in contempt of court for telling Morton’s trial judge, during a 1987 hearing, that he had no favorable evidence to give to Morton’s lawyers.

In 1987, Anderson withheld evidence favorable to a defendant who would go on to be convicted of the murder of his wife and serve 25 years in prison. He would later be proved innocent through DNA testing. In a gross insult to justice, Anderson will serve just 10 days in jail as part of a plea bargain that will drop criminal charges against him for tampering with evidence, which could have meant 10 years in prison if he was convicted. He is being held in contempt of court for withholding exculpatory evidence, which he informed the judge at the time that he did not have. This was a lie as Anderson withheld two pieces of evidence that fit with the defense theory of an alternate murderer.

Anderson was Williamson County district attorney for 16 years before he became a district court judge in 2002. He resigned from that position in 2012. This is how the system works. Prosecutors are not there to deliver justice, but as paid employees of the state whose job is to get convictions. Those convictions help them progress along the career path from prosecutor to judge, where they remain paid employees of the state, dependent on a clogged legal system to maintain their livelihood.

This insultingly short sentence- roughly ONE THOUSANDTH OF ONE PERCENT of the time Anderson’s innocent victim spent in jail -turns out to be extremely hefty in terms of how prosecutors are normally held accountable, which is typically on the order of not at all. “This is the first time in the country’s history that a prosecutor has been found guilty of criminal contempt, will go to jail and be stripped of their law license,” says Gerald Goldstein, an attorney for the Innocence Project.

In an environment that breeds prosecutorial abuse with virtually no accountability, jurors should be especially skeptical of what they hear in the courtroom and hold prosecutors to a high standard before considering convicting.

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Jury Nullification | 09 Nov 2013

-Jury Nullification and a Woman’s Memorable Vote

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Portrait_of_Susan_B._Anthony_on_her_50th_birthdayIn this article, Carl M. Cannon discusses a historic attempt for conscientious acquittal by jury nullification. In 1873, suffragist Susan B. Anthony embarked on a whirlwind tour arguing passionately for jury nullification before standing trial for the crime of Voting While Female.

Election Day 1872 — and a Woman’s Memorable Vote

“Citizenship no more carries the right to vote than it carries the power to fly to the moon,” harrumphed the Rochester Union and Advertiser, the city’s leading Democratic Party newspaper. “If these women in the Eighth Ward offer to vote, they should be challenged, and if they take the oaths and the Inspectors receive and deposit their ballots, they should all be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

This advice was duly followed. Sylvester Lewis registered a formal complaint accusing Anthony with casting an illegal vote. The local U.S. attorney’s office charged her with a federal crime. This was precisely the discussion Susan B. Anthony had hoped to launch, and after being indicted (by an all-male grand jury) on Jan. 24, 1873, she promptly embarked on a whirlwind speaking tour in every corner of Rochester, quite consciously trying to open the minds of anyone who might happen to be seated on her jury.

Susan B. Anthony wasn’t coy about the result she was trying to bring about: jury nullification, and eventual ratification of her view by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We ask the juries to fail to return verdicts of ‘guilty’ against honest, law-abiding, tax-paying United States citizens for offering their votes at our elections,” she said. “We ask the judges to render true and unprejudiced opinions of the law, and wherever there is room for a doubt to give its benefit on the side of liberty and equal rights to women.”

Then, as now, the prosecutor and the judge in this case were highly resistant to the concept of jury nullification, gaming the system to undermine Anthony’s campaign. The trial venue was changed, and the trial was delayed. Judge Hunt refused to allow Anthony to testify in her own behalf and explicitly directed the jury to render a Guilty verdict. Whether the jury lacked the desire or merely the fortitude to acquit is unknown, but they did comply with his instruction and convicted her. Anthony was sentenced to a $100 fine which to this day remain unpaid.

Moreover, by 1920, the United States passed the 19th Amendment extending the previous privilege of suffrage for men to women in all 50 states. It would be more than a half century longer with the 1975 Supreme Court ruling in Taylor v. Louisiana that women would also gain equal standing with men to serve on juries.

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Jury Nullification | 08 Nov 2013

-Former Prosecutor to Jurors: Jury Nullification!

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DCMetroAdAnother great interview with Professor Paul Butler, who has personal experience with Washington, D.C.’s long history of jury nullification. In discussing jury nullification with The Nation, Butler cites it as one of the reasons we’re seeing a shift against criminalization of marijuana.

Former Prosecutor to Jurors: Nullify!

LS: How did you arrive at jury nullification as a tactic for fighting the drug war?

PB: I learned jury nullification from the jurors of the District of Columbia. It was commonplace that if you had a young, black defendant charged with drug possession, DC jurors were not going to send them to jail. They didn’t want to send another black man to jail. When senior prosecutors first told us rookies about this, they would roll their eyes in exasperation. Like, here we are trying to improve their city, and they don’t have the sense to lock up all these cretins. (In the prosecutor’s office, that’s what we called the defendants: “cretins” and “douche bags.”) When I left the prosecutor’s office and started to teach, it was the thing I was the most interested in studying. From a scholarly perspective, I found that it’s a proud part of our constitutional tradition, that it’s perfectly legal and indeed was embraced by the framers as a way to protect people from too powerful law enforcement and too powerful prosecutors. It says that people from the community, not the government, should have the ultimate authority over what happens to a criminal defendant.

Click through for the entire article.

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Jurors Doing Justice & Jury Nullification | 08 Nov 2013

-Jury Nullification: A Tool for Advancing Gun Rights?

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A jury deadlocked, reportedly with a single holdout juror maintaining a Not Guilty vote, in the case of Army Master Sgt. Christopher “C.J.” Grisham, charged with interfering with the duties of a Temple police officer who attempted to take his legally carried weapon from him. Dean Weingarten argues in this article that juror education is a ripe field for Second Amendment supporters, noting that jury nullification is a peaceful way to prevent injustice.

Jury Nullification: A Tool for Advancing Gun Rights?

The recent mistrial in the case of U.S. Army Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham shows the lack of education of the Bell County jurors. The mistrial occurred because only one juror of the six understood his rights and responsibilities as a juror. Initially, according to jury member L.J. Cotterill, “we all agreed that the charge itself and the case itself was garbage. This entire matter should have been resolved by two grown men acting like grown men apologizing for their part in a bad situation and buying each other a beer and then going to a range together.” The problem was that the jury didn’t know their rights and power to find “not guilty” if justice demanded it.

Click through for the entire article.

According to one juror, the jury was instructed only to determine whether or not the defendant committed certain actions that he was charged with and not whether or not there were mitigating circumstances that justified those actions. Had they been allowed to consider mitigating circumstances, says juror Cotterill, they would have delivered a Not Guilty verdict in two minutes and that the charge was garbage. He says that even though one juror held out and maintained a Not Guilty verdict, everyone agreed that the actions had taken place. This description points to a possible jury nullification vote on the part of the holdout juror.

Here is the video of the interview with juror Cotterill.

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 08 Nov 2013

-Jury Nullification Should Be Arguable Directly to Jury

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Jury BoxCriminal defense and civil rights lawyer Norm Pattis argues that jury nullification is an important defense that ought to be allowed openly, especially in cases in which people are being prosecuted for telling the truth. He compares modern day whistleblower Ed Snowden with John Peter Zenger who was prosecuted in colonial New York for publishing unflattering truths about the royal governor.

Government spying looks like piracy

It is a sorry day when folks are prosecuted for telling the truth, especially when that truth proves that the government lies, and its agents then seek to justify those lies as good for us. How are we ordinary folks to distinguish emperors from pirates?

In recent weeks, there have been calls to create a public-interest defense to criminal charges lodged against those who tell us the truth in violation of the laws governing our new, and behemoth, national security state. If permitted, Edward Snowden could defend against charges he disclosed the government’s secrets by claiming he did so in the public interest, in order to let us know what its government was doing.

Such a defense would be helpful, of course, but it is not enough. Jurors ought to be free to nullify the law when they believe it has been misapplied, and lawyers ought to be free to argue nullification, taking their case directly to the people in the jury box.

Everyone should understand that jurors in EVERY courtroom in America ALREADY have the power to conscientiously acquit when a just verdict requires setting aside the law. Simply vote Not Guilty. Jurors cannot be punished for their verdicts.

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