Three Cheers for Jury Nullification

Every once in awhile, Time Magazine really surprises me. Usually it’s a bastion of conformity and inside-the-box thinking, but then out of nowhere, pow! Take this week’s surprising guest editorial, from the creators of HBO’s The Wire. Not only do they call out the drug war as the monstrous, destructive atrocity that it is, but they up the ante by calling for good old-fashioned (but unheard of in the MSM) jury nullification:

If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun’s manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.

Jury nullification is American dissent, as old and as heralded as the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, who was acquitted of seditious libel against the royal governor of New York, and absent a government capable of repairing injustices, it is legitimate protest. If some few episodes of a television entertainment have caused others to reflect on the war zones we have created in our cities and the human beings stranded there, we ask that those people might also consider their conscience. And when the lawyers or the judge or your fellow jurors seek explanation, think for a moment on Bubbles or Bodie or Wallace. And remember that the lives being held in the balance aren’t fictional.

I’ve been a jury rights advocate for years. If you do nothing else to restore freedom in our country, it is essential that you let every person you know — especially when they are about to serve jury duty — that they have the absolute right and duty to just the law itself, as well as the facts of the case, regardless of any instructions to the contrary by the guy in the black dress. The Fully Informed Jury Association is a great resource for spreading the word.

And, as luck would have it, I have jury duty coming up in three weeks. You’d better believe that every potential juror in the waiting room with me will get the new FIJA brochure.

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