For me, truth and justice are priceless! They are worth fighting for. Now, I was going to fight for a little guy who had nothing to lose except an old bicycle and his little freedom to roam the streets and parks. And now he had lost both.
The 0.363 grams!
Robert Tracy Wilson is a homeless man in his forties. On January 19th 2011, he was arrested in a public restroom after the park was closed. A police officer noticing a bicycle by the bathroom wall stops by and finds the defendant by the sink with a lighter in one hand and a finger bleeding. On the sink he sees an aluminum beer can split into halves. Then he notices a little metal tube on the bathroom's concrete floor and a tiny piece of crack cocaine on the sink, 363 milligrams, according to police report. Robert is arrested and charged for "unlawfully possessing a narcotic drug, to wit: cocaine base, and unlawfully possessing drug paraphernalia, to wit: pipe."
The evidence is circumstantial. The police has no evidence that Robert was high on drugs or he actually possessed a narcotic drug and paraphernalia; in legal terminology he was allegedly in "constructive possession" of the drug. There is neither fingerprint on the pipe nor on the crack. The pipe does not have the screen in the end, which was used in favor of the defendant by the public defender, Dean Brault. As a response, the prosecutor, Gordon Bennett, through several expert witnesses provided free public education about the many ways of using drugs! I am a teetotaler. All my life, I have never used alcohol or drugs, never smoked cigarettes, and as you might guess, I have also never gambled. So, I have no empathy for the alleged crime, and I consider alcohol and drugs most harmful afflictions in human history, at par with wars and perhaps little creatures such as viruses, germs and mosquitoes.
I will not bother you with the details of this case and the arguments of the parties. In fact, I found that all the factual details were distraction and smoke screen. Unfortunately, like most of the jury, my friends would be distracted by the facts of this particular case. They were excited to act like detectives in movies and employ all their smarts to reach guilty or non-guilty verdict. I see the devil in some details. If we ignore the bigger picture and get lost in the cracks of the details, the justice too might get lost. I also know that there are literally hundreds of similar cases around the nation every working day, and juries are disoriented and misled into looking for justice in the tiny cracks of an unjust system.
Nullification versus Planting Reasonable Doubt
I am surprised that other jury members pick me as their foreperson. The jury members are comprised of three women and six men. Among the jurors there are two engineers, a chemist with doctorate degrees, two university students, a medical claims specialist, a social worker, and I do not remember the occupation of the alternate juror.
When we are taken to the jury room for deliberation, it is already noon. Before taking a lunch break, I ask the jury members to raise their hands if they find the defendant guilty. Five out of eight raise their hands. I let them discuss it for about fifteen minutes. There are some doubts regarding the possession of paraphernalia, but the majority has no reasonable doubt that the defendant possessed the crack cocaine. We take a forty minute lunch break.
Before raising doubts about the prosecutor's allegations, I decide to share with them my ethical trepidation. They listened to my emotional yet reasonable argument for about five minutes. There is complete silence in the room. They look at me and tell me that they indeed do agree with me ethically. But, they immediately add that they want to indulge in discussing the facts of the case, since they must follow the rules of law as they promised the judge.