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Jury Nullification | 16 Jul 2013

-Former State Department Lawyer and Cartoonist Speculate on Jury Nullification for Snowden

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Jury BoxJury nullification makes The Atlantic today, with regard to the Edward Snowden case. Conor Friedersdorf shares the comments of both David Pozen, a Columbia Law School professor and former State Department lawyer, and cartoonist Scott Adams in this article.

Would an American Jury Even Convict Edward Snowden?

At Lawfare, David Pozen, a Columbia Law School professor and former State Department lawyer, points out that even if the U.S. government manages to take Edward Snowden into custody, the Obama Administration will find it unpleasant to prosecute him.

“Snowden would no doubt obtain high-powered lawyers,” he writes. “Protesters would ring the courthouse. Journalists would camp out inside. As proceedings dragged on for months, the spotlight would remain on the N.S.A.’s spying and the administration’s pursuit of leakers.” What I found most provocative about the post, however, is the suggestion that the trial’s outcome would be in doubt:

If the case law is on its side, why would the government have reason to worry about prosecuting Snowden? One source of concern is the jury. Snowden says his leaks revealed an unconstitutional and undemocratic system of surveillance. Polls suggest that many Americans agree. Even if the judge instructs the jury to set aside its views on the rightness or wrongness of Snowden’s acts, there is no guarantee it will. Jurors might be tempted to acquit Snowden, not because they believe he is factually innocent but because they believe he was morally justified.

He goes on:

It has happened before — in England. In 1985, Clive Ponting looked destined for prison after leaking Ministry of Defence documents that called into question the official story of the Falklands War. Ponting fessed up to being the source. The jury voted to acquit him nevertheless, and in so doing helped catalyze a movement to liberalize the laws against unauthorized disclosures.

Click through for the entire article including more extensive commentary on the possibility of jury nullification in this case.

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