Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jury Nullification and the Drug War

In Montana, a jury could not be seated because every potential juror said they wouldn't convict on a charge of possession of a few buds of marijuana.

The general notion of juries refusing to convict on laws they don't agree with is called jury nullification, and sends judges into a dither and gets you a charge of contempt of court and some jail time if you dare mention it in a court of law. If you Google the term "jury nullification", you will find a number of Libertopian web sites arguing that jury nullification is the "last defense" against unjust laws.

The problem is, who decides what's an unjust law? In the American South prior to modern days (and sometimes even in modern days), a white man could literally murder a black man with impunity, because the all-white jury pools of the day viewed a conviction of murder for killing a black man to be unjust. The general view in the South was that killing a black man was more like killing a dog -- something that was unfortunate but which should be punished at most with a fine and a few weeks jail time, not by sending a white man to the electric chair. The whole notion of convicting a white man of murder when the white man killed a black man was considered absurd and a tyrannical imposition of an unjust law upon the Southern people.

So it's clear, from our own nation's history, that "jury nullification" creates miscarriages of justice when a member of the majority harms a minority with impunity because juries refuse to uphold the law. In short, the Libertopian notion that jury nullification would produce justice might apply in their Libertopia where unicorns are real and cotton candy grows on trees, but in our universe allowed the KKK to murder blacks with impunity. That is why "jury nullification" became verbotten -- it harmed minorities. Of course, the same might be said of the *current* system too...

-- Badtux the Legal Penguin


  1. I don't even smoke pot but based on my views and opinions I wouldn't be set on such a jury either.

  2. Right or wrong it's awfully effing funny.

  3. In general, nothing in our legal system provides adequate protection for the rights of minorities, whether racial or sexual or whatever. They're basically dependent on good will from one branch of government or another.

    The Montana case isn't just funny, it's an example of our system working right for once. Imagine what would happen if people generally rebelled against the drug war, or capital punishment, or any of the other perverse manifestions of American "exceptionalism."


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