130 online
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 46 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/28/14

If the Law Is Bullshit, You Must Acquit

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   4 comments
Message Thom Hartmann
Become a Fan
  (139 fans)

Cross-posted from Smirking Chimp

(Image by The American View)   Details   DMCA

You and I have the power to end Nixon's failed War on Drugs once-and-for-all. In fact, it's our constitutional right to do so.

Imagine for a second that you've been selected as a juror for the trial of someone like Jacob Lavoro, the 19-year-old Austin, Texas man currently facing anywhere from five years to life in prison for making a pound-and-a-half of pot brownies.

You know that based on the all evidence presented by the prosecution that the defendant is probably guilty, but you and other jurors on the case have serious doubts about convicting him because you know that doing so will ruin the defendant's life.

You're trapped. The law says one thing, but your conscience says the other. So what do you do?

Easy -- you use your power of jury nullification. You declare the defendant "not guilty" regardless of the evidence and let him walk free, "nullifying" the unjust or unfair law.

Just like the Supreme Court has the power to strike down laws, you too as an American citizen have the power to reject laws when you're serving on a jury.

If you haven't heard of jury nullification before, that's not all that surprising. The powers that be really don't want anyone to know about it because it represents a direct threat to the status quo. Defense lawyers, for example, aren't allowed to talk about a jury's right to nullify during a trial and saying that you know about nullification is actually one of the easiest ways to avoid jury duty altogether.

In some cases, people who spread the word about jury nullification have even been accused of committing a crime. Just three years ago, for example, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged a 78-year-old former chemistry professor named Julian Heinecken with "jury tampering" for handing out flyers outside a courthouse that informed jurors of their right to nullify.

But however much they try, the authorities will never actually be able to stop people from using their jury nullification powers. That's because the right to nullify is given to us by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, the same part of the Bill of Rights that gives us the right to trial by jury.

Judge Jerry E. Smith of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals made this clear in an opinion he wrote earlier this month deciding the case of United States of America v. Juan Agudin Salazar.

According to Smith, when a Texas judge ordered a jury to find Juan Salazar guilty after he confessed in court to drug and gun charges, that judge violated Salazar's right to have a jury decide whether or not he was guilty or innocent. As Smith wrote, "the Sixth Amendment safeguards even an obviously guilty defendant's right to have a jury decide guilt or innocence."

When you really think about it, jury nullification is among the most important rights we have as Americans. It gives us the power and freedom to say "no" to unjust laws. It gives us, "We the People," the final say over what kind of laws we want enforced.

And with Nixon's failed War on Drugs now in its forty-third year, it's never been more important for Americans to understand that they have this immense power

Ever since Nixon declared a War on Drugs in 1971, the incarceration rate has skyrocketed. As a result, the United States now imprisons more people than any other country in the world.

This is costing us billions, if not hundreds of billions of dollars. In fact, according to the Washington Post, over the past 20 years, "Spending on incarceration at the state level has outpaced budget increases for just about every other function of government, including education, transportation and welfare. Only spending on Medicaid at the state level has grown faster."

And because people of color are disproportionately arrested, imprisoned, and charged with drug crimes, the War on Drugs has stunted a lot of the progress we made with integration in the 1960s. Mass incarceration has become such a problem for people of color that sociologist Michelle Alexander now calls it the "new Jim Crow."

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Must Read 3   Well Said 2   Inspiring 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Thom Hartmann Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

S&P Blames Republicans, Mainstream Media Fails to Report It

Globalization Is Killing The Globe: Return to Local Economies

The Uncanny, Frightening Ways That Trump's America Mirrors Hitler's Germany

The Great Tax Con Job

The Truth about the Trust Fund-- Destroying Social Security to Destroy the Two Party System

The Deciding Moment: The Theft of Human Right

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend