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Better than Law: How About Using Jury Nullification for Marijuana Users

QUESTION: If you were on a jury in a case where the defendant was clearly guilty of possessing several marijuana plants growing in his home for his own use, would you vote to acquit him even if your vote resulted in a hung jury?

Would you disregard the law and let the man go free even if the judge instructed the jury that it must follow the law?

If you were alive in the 19th century and someone rescued a slave, and he was arrested for violating the fugitive slave act, would you, as a juror, vote to acquit? Would you set the slave rescuer free?

What about in a case where someone committed a victimless crime?

Jury nullification is defined by the U.S. Supreme Court as a jury's knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself, or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury's sense of justice, morality, or fairness. (See U.S. v. Thomas, 116 F.3d 606 (2d Cir. 1997)). Jury nullification is a power retained by the people. Like any power, it is one that must be exercised. The purpose of the jury is to protect the minority from the tyranny of government and the tyranny of the majority. It is intended to counteract the passions of a lynch mob mentality. It is used to nullify bad laws. It is used to counter injustice where other methods are not effective.

American Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, placed more faith in the jury than in the legislature as a safeguard of liberty. “Were I called upon to decide,” said Jefferson, “whether the people had best be omitted in the legislative (elected representative) or judiciary department (jurors), I would say it is better to leave them out of the legislative. The execution of laws is more important than the making of them."

Jefferson regarded jury nullification as the most important check on government.

In 1789 he wrote: "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." Jefferson also wrote, "It is in the power, therefore of the juries... to judge the law as well as the facts."

So, again, I ask you “If you were on a jury and a man who had done no more than possess a few of God's green growing plants in his house for his own use, would you vote to acquit, even if it resulted in a hung jury?”

The jury vote is by far the most important vote in the American political system.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Mar 18, 2014