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Purveyor

(29,876 posts)
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 02:07 PM Dec 2011

To End Ridiculous Pot Arrests, Jurors Should Refuse to Convict Marijuana Arrestees (And Can Do So...

Last edited Thu Dec 22, 2011, 06:32 PM - Edit history (1)

Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and law professor at George Washington University, has an idea to help everyday Americans stand-up against the harsh marijuana laws most of them do not support: "If you are ever on a jury in a marijuana case, I recommend that you vote 'not guilty' — even if you think the defendant actually smoked pot, or sold it to another consenting adults," he wrote Monday in an op-ed for the New York Times. The tactic is called "jury nullification," and it is perfectly legal. "As a juror, you have this power under the Bill of Rights; if you exercise it, you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer," Butler said.

Clearly, public opinion is not reflected in the federal government's crackdown on legal medical marijuana programs, nor is it evident in high arrest rates. A recent Gallup poll showed that 50% of Americans' favor marijuana legalization -- a record high --, and a CBS poll found that even more Americans, 77 percent, believe medical marijuana should be legal, though the majority also said that current medical marijuana programs are not being used to alleviate "suffering serious medical conditions." And yet, even as more Americans than ever support some kind of marijuana legalization, arrests for medical marijuana are at an all-time high: "In 2010, police made 853,838 arrests in 2010 for marijuana-related offenses, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report," Paul Armentano recently reported on AlterNet.

Butletr suggests that Americans need not lie down as hundreds of thousands of us are arrested for pot offenses, the majority of which are personal possession charges. According to Butler, jury nullification "is premised on the idea that ordinary citizens, not government officials, should have the final say as to whether a person should be punished. As Adams put it, it is each juror’s “duty” to vote based on his or her 'own best understanding, judgment and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.'"

Prosecutors, however, have taken legal action to prevent Americans from being informed of this right. Butler said disclosing the truth about nullification to potential jurors could result in a six-month prison sentence:

MORE...

http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/751804/ny_times_op-ed%3A_to_end_ridiculous_pot_arrests%2C_jurors_should_refuse_to_convict_marijuana_arrestees_%28and_can_do_so_legally%29/

Original NY Op-Ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/opinion/jurors-can-say-no.html?_r=1

19 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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To End Ridiculous Pot Arrests, Jurors Should Refuse to Convict Marijuana Arrestees (And Can Do So... (Original Post) Purveyor Dec 2011 OP
He's right! Vinnie From Indy Dec 2011 #1
I said this a long time ago. ohheckyeah Dec 2011 #2
Here's a great explaination of jury nullification, in PDF, from another DU'er, noamnety: RueVoltaire Dec 2011 #3
"Prosecutors, however, have taken legal action redqueen Dec 2011 #4
Indeed they have. Really annoys judges too ProgressiveProfessor Dec 2011 #10
Simple. Elegant. timtom Dec 2011 #5
I would do it for any drug abuse case Politicalboi Dec 2011 #6
Jury Nullification is far from new ProgressiveProfessor Dec 2011 #7
It's new if you don't know about it Uncle Joe Dec 2011 #8
Same thing happened in southern states during the Civil Rights movement when ProgressiveProfessor Dec 2011 #9
It's all relative, the crime itself must be taken into consideration, members of Uncle Joe Dec 2011 #11
I am not necessarily opposed to jury nullification ProgressiveProfessor Dec 2011 #15
Considering that the "War on Drugs" is an unjust, draconian, immoral, corruptive and racist Uncle Joe Dec 2011 #16
I have thought about it zipplewrath Dec 2011 #12
a request: would you please cross-post this in the Drug Policy Forum? RainDog Dec 2011 #13
This thread is still missing, just posting to see if it shows up. Uncle Joe Dec 2011 #17
Juries, by and lrge, are very pro-state. Laelth Dec 2011 #14
i wonder sylveste Dec 2011 #18
That's just another part of legalized extortion racket. Uncle Joe Dec 2011 #19

Vinnie From Indy

(10,820 posts)
1. He's right!
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 02:10 PM
Dec 2011

If these cases begin to get nullified by juries, it will be much harder to continue this insane, fictional "war" against drugs.

ohheckyeah

(9,314 posts)
2. I said this a long time ago.
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 02:11 PM
Dec 2011

If juries refuse to convict then what's the point of arresting and prosecuting?

redqueen

(115,160 posts)
4. "Prosecutors, however, have taken legal action
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 02:17 PM
Dec 2011

to prevent Americans from being informed of this right."

 

Politicalboi

(15,189 posts)
6. I would do it for any drug abuse case
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 02:23 PM
Dec 2011

As long as they weren't selling to children, or endangering lives. I could care less if they smoked crack all day. Although crack is more dangerous compared to MJ. But crack is addictive so there's actually more reason not to convict. But this is a great idea.

ProgressiveProfessor

(22,144 posts)
9. Same thing happened in southern states during the Civil Rights movement when
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 03:10 PM
Dec 2011

juries refused to convict some of those accused of crimes against minorities.

If we embrace jury nullification for one kind of crime, we are clearly opening the door for it to be used in other kinds of crimes.

Something to think about.

Uncle Joe

(59,220 posts)
11. It's all relative, the crime itself must be taken into consideration, members of
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 03:17 PM
Dec 2011

the Underground Railroad; spiriting escaped slaves away to freedom, were also breaking the law, would you have opposed jury nullification being used in their case?

ProgressiveProfessor

(22,144 posts)
15. I am not necessarily opposed to jury nullification
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 04:55 PM
Dec 2011

I was on one that did just that, though no one used that term.

Its just that if we embrace it for some "crimes" others will embrace it for others and there will be a moral equivalency in the eyes of many, with some justification. Not sure I like where that could lead. That said, there are clearly cases that cry out for it.

Uncle Joe

(59,220 posts)
16. Considering that the "War on Drugs" is an unjust, draconian, immoral, corruptive and racist
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 05:43 PM
Dec 2011

construct.

I have no problem with supporting jury nullification in these cases.

The Executive and Legislative branches have greatly overstepped their boundries infringing on the Judiciary and I believe the people need to take that power back.

I agree with you in regards to the need for caution in doing so, but I believe the people in general at a macro level will make the right decisions. The people may be governed to some degree by their passions but our current system of government not all only places those same vices on the politicians but adds the enticement of legalized bribery as well.

The "War on Drugs" has become a full circle of extortion and bribery taking money from the people through draconian prosecution and sentencing, funneling it through the police, for profit prisons, big pharma and various other entities and then lining the pockets of the very same politicians; so enthusiastic about passing these counterproductive, dysfunctional and self-serving laws.

zipplewrath

(16,648 posts)
12. I have thought about it
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 03:17 PM
Dec 2011

Jury nullification is a very "democratic" process. It takes more than one jury, but it can also represent a "minority" view. It is part of the same democratic process that created the Jim Crow laws to begin with. Yes, just as the political process can produce Jim Crow laws, the jury nullification can be used to nullify civil rights. It's all part of the process of self government.

One shouldn't just participate in jury nullification. They should also advocate and vote consistently with such an action. But it can be part of the larger self governing process.

I've often thought that there should be some constitutional principal that laws have to be "supported" by the governed through their own behavior. If 30% or more (at any one time) can be shown to not supporting a law by actually following it, the law becomes invalidated. Large numbers of "social engineering" laws would be gone. Of course that probably would include alot of speed limits.

RainDog

(28,784 posts)
13. a request: would you please cross-post this in the Drug Policy Forum?
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 03:24 PM
Dec 2011

or just add it as a reply to the other thread on this topic - that would keep the info together.

thanks!

Laelth

(32,017 posts)
14. Juries, by and lrge, are very pro-state.
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 03:45 PM
Dec 2011

Most of them are just itching to convict people--of anything, for any reason. They want to see some punishment!

I fear the well-intentioned author is barking up the wrong tree.

-Laelth

sylveste

(197 posts)
18. i wonder
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 06:41 PM
Dec 2011

how many marijuana cases actually make it to a jury trial, my guess is very few realitvely speaking. most are probably plead out.

Uncle Joe

(59,220 posts)
19. That's just another part of legalized extortion racket.
Thu Dec 22, 2011, 06:55 PM
Dec 2011

There is no redeeming quality to this so called war.

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