Drug Policy

If the Law's Unfit, You Must Acquit

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Ricardo Cortés, author of It's Just a Plant and illustrator of Go the Fuck to Sleep, has a new project: Jury Independence Illustrated. He says the free pamphlet, which he planned to distribute at a Brooklyn courthouse today, is meant to "inform potential jurors" about "a specific, largely unknown power they have—a transformative role that could radically shift the criminal justice system." As the pamphlet explains, a jury has the unreviewable power to declare a defendant not guilty "despite evidence establishing that the defendant is guilty as charged." It can thereby "nullify a law that it believes unjust or wrongly applied to a defendant." Echoing the creators of Eric Holder's favorite TV show, Cortés urges jurors to use this power in all cases involving nonviolent drug offenders.

The pamphlet includes a chart detailing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's shameful crackdown on pot smokers, regarding which Cortés relates the following anecdote:

I confronted Bloomberg once at a Gracie Mansion BBQ, where I asked him to reconcile his administration of record marijuana arrests with his own admission of personal use and enjoyment. He hemmed and hawed. I asked why he wouldn't arrest himself for the past use, and he said "That's not how the law works." I said, "So, really you're just saying 'I got away with it.'" At that point he said, "You and I have nothing in common," and walked away from me.

You can download Jury Independence Illustrated here. More on jury nullification here.

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  1. It’s a good thing Bloomberg has enough money to hire someone to shave him every morning, because I can’t imagine he can look at himself in the mirror.

    1. Seriously, Bloomberg has to be one of the worst things to happen to NYC in decades. I have friends from both Team Red/Team Blue living in the Bronx and they hate him with a passion. His leadership during the big snowstorm was pathetic at best, and yet he seriously thinks he’s doing a good job.

      Makes me glad I don’t live in Manhattan anymore.

      1. Of course the numbskulls in NYC voted him into a third term as Mayor.

        1. They get the government they deserve. However, if they keep trying to inflict on the rest of us, we might just have to carpetbomb them.

        2. That’s because the other guy is always worse. Same reason we got Giuliani for so long.

  2. Bloomer is repelled by even the faintest scent of ethics.

  3. That anecdote is just awesome. I’d love to see that line of questioning in a presidential debate.

  4. I got a jury summons last week for July 13th. Yesterday I got another summons for July 18th.

    1. I’ve never gotten a jury duty summons. Of course, I’ve always been registered either as Libertarian or Independent. I wonder if they’re truly random, and if anyone has ever studied this.

      1. What would you expect?

        Does it not seem rather silly that the king gets to decide who sits on the jury?

      2. I’ve been a registered Libertarian for my entire adult life, and I get summoned for jury duty regularly.

        I was even sat on a jury two years ago despite answering in a questionnaire that I thought offering a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony was legalized bribery.

        1. Maybe it’s just my bad luck. Or the fact that I never read my mail.

  5. Great article. I’ve known about this for a while, having read up on the Fully Informed Jury Association. I hear you can get out of jury duty by wearing one of their t-shirts to court, or mentioning them when being questioned for jury duty.

    1. The problem is the “get out of jury duty” mentality itself. Smart people skip it because they’ve got better stuff to do and then wonder in amazement that juries could render such stupid verdicts.

      1. I know, double edged sword.

      2. I heard that!

      3. Juries should get paid more.

      4. I try like hell to get on juries, but I’m not willing to lie. I have never been seated despite numerous summons.

        1. I know. I’d love to serve on a jury, but they never even get past “Occupation” for me.

          1. Why do they hate Meth Lab Chemists so?

        2. It’s not lying if it’s none of their damn business in the first place. They screen for a reason.

    2. —“Cort?s urges jurors to use this power in all cases involving nonviolent drug offenders”—

      I have used this technique to get out of jury service for three non-violent drug offense trials. Only one judge asked me for an explanation. I told him I didn’t believe the Government had the authority to ban drugs and would not vote to convict under any circumstances if the charges were for non-violent offenses.

  6. If jury nullification were to happen more frequently, the law would just be changed. Can’t have the bad guys getting off on technicalities. Or prosecutors’ conviction rates dropping.

    1. Changing the laws won’t matter. One of the reasons Prohibition was ended was the juries refusing to convict people charged with breaking prohibition laws.

      1. “Juries refusing to convict people charged with breaking prohibition laws.”

        What the hell happened to that?

        1. I did!

        2. People back then actually had balls and were willing to contradict those in power.

        3. Judges figured out instructions that better intimidated juries and convinced them of their impotence.

    2. Jury nullification is more of a fact about how juries work than a legally allowed practice. Getting rid of jury nullification would require effectively stripping juries of any power at all. If someone gets to review a jury’s verdict to decide if they decided correctly or not, then there is really no point to a jury.

    3. Jury nullification happens ALL THE TIME. We just call it “acquittal”.

      Really, that’s all it is. After you wade through all the quasi-sovrun verbiage in FIJA papers, it still boils down to a juror not voting guilty. That is all.

      1. “Jury nullification” is a type of acquital, but not all acquittals are jury nullifications.

        1. So you really do believe the judge marks down “nullified” in the records and sighs to himself that yet another law has been erased from the books?

  7. I confronted Bloomberg once at a Gracie Mansion BBQ

    Not that I doubt the dude’s story (it perfectly exemplifies the attitudes of the parasite classes), but Bloomberg doesn’t live at Gracie Mansion. Do they still do functions there? I guess it’s easy for Mikey because his apartments on 86th St. are right there anyway.

    1. I seem to remember some flap recently about how much tax money he spends on Gracie Mansion even though he doesn’t live there.

  8. “You and I have nothing in common,”

    I can’t think of a better compliment for Ricardo Cort?s.

  9. “You and I have nothing in common,”

    Bloomberg is a worm. Which might explain why someone making rational arguments would have nothing in common with him.

    Also does anyone want to make a bet that he is one of the Republicans that Shrike, the pure libertarian, likes?

  10. Now if only he can get Samuel Jackson to do the audio version.

    1. “Yes they deserve to die. And I hope they burn in hell!”

      *takes mouthful of peanuts*

  11. I have no problems getting out of jury duty and jury nullification never even comes up. Once you tell them the American justice system is so corrupt is should be destroyed by fire and rebuilt from the ground up, they bounce your ass pretty quick. If they don’t want to hear my answers, they shouldn’t ask me questions.

    1. the American justice system is so corrupt is should be destroyed by fire and rebuilt from the ground up

      Did they ask that as a yes/no question?

  12. I almost hope I get called for Jury duty soon. Though I can’t decide what would be more fun, telling them upfront that I would never under any circumstances vote to convict someone of drug or other victimless crimes, or to actually get on a jury for some such crime and hang the jury on what would normally be an open and shut case.

    1. Does perjury apply to your answers in the voir dire? Because I like this idea otherwise.

      1. Since, absent you providing it, they can’t prove shit about why you voted the way you voted on the jury, no.

    2. Not under ANY circumstance? You do realize, don’t you, that most drug cases involve violence? Some guy smoking pot peacefully, sure vote not guilty. But if robbery, assault, murder, etc. are among the charges, I hope you toss that FIJA book in the trash and vote according to the facts in the case.

      1. Did you miss the part about victimless crimes, BB?

        1. No I didn’t miss it, I saw where you placed it after the word “or”.

          But regardless, victimless crimes attract victims precisely because they are crimes. Saying that “I would never under any circumstances vote to convict someone…” is to deny that violence surrounds most victimless crimes. Get rid of the law, but don’t let the violent offenders off the hook.

  13. I want to see this happening in every single weapons charge in gun-control states — fucking legislator-niggers, fuck them and their legislation

    1. Particularly in view of the reality that the founding ratifiers understood that the entire sphere within which legislators could legislate was limited to preserving the primacy of the individual, free markets and to prevent the enactment of any socialistic, administrative state, New Deal type of measure.

      1. Absolutely. It’s been said so many times, but people don’t seem to understand.

        The United States is a constitutional republican confederacy with democratic elements in its structure of government, not an actual democracy, and policy and law may be made solely within the definitive and miniscule confines of supreme law, and that’s even before you jump into what’s right and what isn’t (which is pretty much what you said).

        Currently, most Americans vote to elect the person “that will change the country for better/lead us to a new world”, when what they SHOULD be voting for the person that will execute the duties of his office and his obligation to the Republic with the most ability and respect. In other words, maintain, defend, and protect the country — do not alter it or mutilate it to your view.

        1. I thought we were a sort of Anarcho-Syndicalist Collective….?

  14. Too bad the most prominent politician who supports jury nullification isn’t running for office this cycle:

    Jury Rights Day

    WHEREAS, September 5, 2007, will mark the 337th anniversary of the day when the jury, in the trial of William Penn, refused to convict him of violating England’s Conventicle Acts, despite clear evidence that he acted illegally by preaching a Quaker sermon to his congregation.

    WHEREAS, by refusing to apply what they determined was an unjust law, the Penn jury not only served justice, but provided a basis for the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, religion, and peaceable assembly.

    WHEREAS, September 5th, 2007, also commemorates the day when four of Penn’s jurors began nine weeks of incarceration for finding him not guilty. Their later release and exoneration established forever the English and American legal doctrine that it is the right and responsibility of the trial jury to decide on matters of law and fact.

    WHEREAS, the Sixth and Seventh Amendments are included in the Bill of Rights to preserve the right to trial by jury, which in turn conveys upon the jury the responsibility to defend, with its verdict, all other individual rights enumerated or implied by the U.S. Constitution, including its Amendments.

    NOW, THEREFORE, I, Sarah Palin, Governor of the State of Alaska, do hereby proclaim September 5, 2007, as:

    Jury Rights Day

    in Alaska, in recognition of the integral role the jury, as an institution, plays in our legal system.

    Dated: August 31, 2007

  15. “Sarah Palin”

    *ejaculates*

    1. Tell me right now, in all honesty, that you wouldn’t rather have Palin over McCain, Santorum, Pawlenty, Obama, and all the other big-name cock-suckers.

      1. Well, thats worse than Sophie’s choice – all of them are terrible, terrible people, and in a just world, not a single one of those fuckers would be considered fit for public office.

        1. All that being said, I object to Sarah Palin on the grounds that she primarily a rabble-rouser who works desperatly to appeal to Socons. I just can’t trust that sentimate in a President. I think, gun to my head, I was squeek out “pawlenty” and then hate myself forever.

          God I hope I’m never in that situation.

          1. Or sentiment, even.

          2. So, you’d prefer a squishy RINO who thinks the government needs to guarantee the “right” to healthcare, over Sarah Palin.

            Not me. I don’t think she’s some kind of Second Coming, and I’m not sure what branch of SoCons she is pandering to, exactly, but I would rather have somebody with a few libertarian instincts than someone with none at all.

            1. Plus, she’s HAWT…

              1. She is hawt, and I would bend that over a table in a second – I don’t know what being a RINO has to do with anything… Really, the last thing I want in office is an honest-to-god Republican who will continue to squash civil liberties as well as fuck over the economy.

                Basically, I think Pawlenty is a giant pussy who won’ have the nerve to concieve of or cajol into being any massive extension of government policy. With a douche like that in the WH, and a divided legislature, we may finally see no progress at all in Washington, and that would be a glorious thing.

                1. “Really, the last thing I want in office is an honest-to-god Republican who will continue to squash civil liberties as well as fuck over the economy.”

                  It’s the Republicans refered to as “RINOs” who generally squash civiliberties and mess with the economy. I’m not saying that you’d like a genuine Republican but ypu seem really confused about political taxonomy.

      2. *Shorter SIV* would prefer any of those statists over the former governor of Alaska. The nameless commneter(MNG?) is still pissed over having to replace the TV he shot when Bristol Palin “cheated” on Dancing With the Stars. The hatred is obsessive.

  16. So, Ricardo’s pretty much beggin’ for a tasing as he distributes his VILE EVIL ANARCHIC CHAOTIC SOMALIAN bile outside a courtroom.

    *Respect*

    1. you forgot anti-roads.

    2. But now it will be newsworthy since he illustrated that other book that people were talking about. Which means that jury nullification will get in the news and people will start to think about it.

  17. That actually makes a lot of sense duede

    http://www.real-privacy.no.tc

  18. I’ve been telling friends about this for the last year or so, since I first heard of it. Unfortunately, they’re more interested in the fact that it’s almost an automatic dismissal than using it to reject government intrusion. I suppose just getting the word out is better than nothing.

  19. If I ever see Bloomberg in person, his bodyguards might have to earn their pay.

  20. There are people who just can say no to the law in this scenario Bloomberg was able to get himself out from the pitt when things are getting serious.

  21. In other news, Ricardo Cortes was arrested for handing out pamphlets at the courthouse.

  22. Jury nullification is more for situations where someone may have technically broken a law, but complete mens rea is lacking, or the situation wasn’t as bad as an instance of breaking the law would seem if you were only told that someone broke that law. Like with statutory rape but the ages are 18/17 (in states that have simplistic statutory rape laws), or kiddy-porn charges for teens sexting or not even sexting just texting pics of themselves in their bikinis at pool parties. Or I would imagine like if I got ticketed because I always have to go back ot my car to get my bags to pick up my dog’s poop in parks. Those situations that could also be said to maybe be coeverd by the absurdity doctrine. All the little nuances of everyday life that you just can’t codify.

    It’s pathetic that you guys think that any significant number of people are going to use jry nullification in this way. Nobody is libertarian, no matter how much you pathetic nerds want to tell yourselves people like you. People may not like some laws but the vast majority don’t think they should be openly ignored, at least not for laws addressing serious/important issues like drug use. I’m all for legalization measures of marijuana in the long run but that doesn’t mean I won’t convict according to the law a serious street dealer.

    Furthermore the claim that jurors SHOULD be able to do this is extremely un-democratic and backwards. One guy nor 12 guys have the right to ignore the consensus of an entire country of hundreds of millions of people in matters of law. Judges currently can dismiss you from a jury if you claim jury nullification because you don’t like a law, and rightly so, and even if you’re already on the jury. I wouldn’t be against judges haviung the right to convict jurors of contempt of court if one or two tried your gay nerd little pipe dreams, though I doubt it would need to go that far.

    1. Jurors do have that right as no consensus has the right to infringe on inviolable freedoms. The reason there are juries of independent untrained citizens instead of judges is at least in part so that small groups of people drawn from local communities where the “crime” took place can buck the “consensus of an entire country of hundreds of millions of people”. As for the “gay nerd little pipe dreams” ad hominan, I suggest deleting one of the adjectives, it’s a little unwieldy as written. Also there are plenty of gay people, plenty of nerds, and plenty of libertarians, between the three of us I’m pretty sure we can get some “serious” pot dealers off.

      1. *ad hominem

  23. We did this in Missoula Montana and made World news! Here are the links to the WSJ and a Montana “News” paper;

    http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2010/…..na-mutiny/

    http://billingsgazette.com/new…..39008.html

  24. The very fact that judges from the get-go engage in what amounts to obstruction of justice via false demands that their instructions are the only ones allowed to be followed in the courtroom – when US vs. Moylan states quite clearly that the jurors have the power to use their own consciences in deciding a case – demonstrates thoroughly just how corrupt American ‘justice’ has become…and who it actually serves.

    The last thing any modern American judge wants on a jury is an civilly-engaged citizen aware of that power, hence the attempt via voire dire to exclude such people. Any wonder why this purported ‘republic’ has come to resemble the rotten, corrupted empire we sought to escape?

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