Can Jury Nullification End The War On Drugs?

by Conor Friedersdorf

Check out this remarkable story from Missoula, Montana:

A funny thing happened on the way to a trial in Missoula County District Court last week. Jurors – well, potential jurors – staged a revolt. They took the law into their own hands, as it were, and made it clear they weren’t about to convict anybody for having a couple of buds of marijuana. Never mind that the defendant in question also faced a felony charge of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs. The tiny amount of marijuana police found while searching Touray Cornell’s home on April 23 became a huge issue for some members of the jury panel. No, they said, one after the other. No way would they convict somebody for having a 16th of an ounce...

District Judge Dusty Deschamps took a quick poll as to who might agree. Of the 27 potential jurors before him, maybe five raised their hands. A couple of others had already been excused because of their philosophical objections. “I thought, ‘Geez, I don’t know if we can seat a jury,’ ” said Deschamps, who called a recess. And he didn’t. During the recess, Paul and defense attorney Martin Elison worked out a plea agreement.

Here's a quote from the plea memorandum that his attorney filed:

Public opinion, as revealed by the reaction of a substantial portion of the members of the jury called to try the charges on Dec. 16, 2010, is not supportive of the state’s marijuana law and appeared to prevent any conviction from being obtained simply because an unbiased jury did not appear available under any circumstances.

Jason Kuznicki reacts at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen:

If more potential jurors start turning down nonviolent drug cases, our drug laws will change.

More on the subject here. And see this story about New Jersey's shameful behavior with regard to medical marijuana.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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