Jurors from Ed Rosenthal's marijuana trial are scheduled to condemn the outcome of the case at a press conference in San Francisco today. According to a press release from Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana group, jury foreman Charles Sackett and two other jurors will "apologiz[e] to Rosenthal for a verdict they say was not just. They also will present a letter asking for a retrial."
Rosenthal, who was growing pot under the city of Oakland's medical marijuana program, was convicted of cultivation and conspiracy on Friday; he faces a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. "After Friday's verdict," the ASA press release says, "many jurors expressed shock and outrage after learning that prosecutors blocked Rosenthal's side of the story. Jurors said they felt 'used' and 'railroaded,' and that the trial had been a 'kangaroo court.'"
These comments are puzzling in light of what Sackett, the jury foreman, told The New York Times last week. He
said the jury was largely sympathetic to Mr. Rosenthal's predicament. But, Mr. Sackett said, jurors were left with "no legal wiggle room" because of the decision to exclude any discussion of Proposition 215 [California's medical marijuana initiative].
"It was one of the most difficult things we ever did as jurors," Mr. Sackett said of separating the state and federal aspects of the case. "We followed the letter of the law. We followed the court's instructions."
Mr. Sackett said that he had voted for Proposition 215 and that he hoped Mr. Rosenthal would ultimately prevail in a higher court.
"I am for the use of medical marijuana, as a number of jurors were," he said. "But we just couldn't base our decision on that."
This account indicates that the jurors knew why Rosenthal was growing marijuana, even if he was not allowed to talk about it in court. (Federal law, unlike California law, does not recognize marijuana as a medicine, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that "medical necessity" is not a defense against federal marijuana charges.) As yesterday's commenters noted, the jurors could have voted their consciences, refusing to convict Rosenthal because they considered the law under which he was charged (or its application in this case) unjust, unconstitutional, or both. Instead, they did as they were told. They were not tricked, it seems, so much as intimidated.