December 29, 2010
The New Nullifiers
It's happened before: The people are speaking up. In court. As jurors. As citizens.
A Missoula District Court could not impanel a jury in a marijuana possession case. Potential jurors refused to say that they would follow the law in convicting a person for possessing a sixteenth of an ounce of the popular weed. One juror wondered why the county was "wasting time and money prosecuting the case at all." The flummoxed Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul called it "a mutiny."
The judge said he'd never seen anything like it.
Jury nullification is an old idea, a democratic idea. I wrote about it a few years ago, in reference to the growing movement to recognize it as a principle of law. Voting isn't the only check citizens have against bad laws. Juries have a right to judge the law as well as the facts in the case, no matter what usurping judges tell them.
The most spectacular instances of jury nullification in American history regarded slavery. Many northern juries revolted against enforcing the Fugitive Slave laws, to the consternation of slave-owners.
The current case didn't quite get to full nullification, in legal terms. Instead, it approached nullification practically, forcing prosecutors to bargain the case down.
This citizens' revolt against some of the absurdities in our War on Drugs indicates that we can expect bigger changes in the future.
This is Common Sense. I'm Paul Jacob.
Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge and Citizens in Charge Foundation, which sponsors both Common Sense and Paul's weekly Townhall Column. The opinions expressed in Common Sense are Paul Jacob's and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Citizens in Charge or Citizens in Charge Foundation.