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Can Fully Informed Juries Help Cannabis Prohibition?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director April 23, 2012

    Of the many numerous peaceful and constitutionally-respectful means employed for decades by which cannabis law reformers have been to try to bring about about an end to Cannabis Prohibition laws, one of the most benign, yet most powerful arrows in the activist’s quiver is jury nullification–whereby jurors are educated and informed about their right to vote not guilty in cases where they morally question the underlying law itself (and not just to cast a verdict ‘for’ or ‘against’ individuals the government has charged with ‘crimes’).

    For almost 20 years NORML supporter and former Penn State Chemistry professor Julien Heicklen has been publicly advocating that jurors can’t be punished for voting their conscience, notably in cannabis-related cases, where, despite the evidence marshaled and the pleas for conviction and punishment by the government, jurors vote ‘not guilty’ in cases where the underlying law is in great dispute and/or are no longer supported by society in large (case in point here approximately 75% of the American public supports medical access to cannabis; 50% support ending Cannabis Prohibition outright).

    Last year Dr. Heicklen was arrested in front of a federal court house in New York City for providing educational pamphlets to people passing by, including perspective jurors, that informed them of America’s long history with jury nullification (i.e. the trial of Peter Zenger during the colonial period) and that the practice is still important today in a functional democracy.

    Thankfully, the charges of jury tampering against Dr. Heicklen were dismissed last week and there is now an even greater legal precedent to cite for both citizens accused of cannabis-related crimes (approximately 850,000 annually in America) and citizens asked to sit on juries to keep upholding antiquated Cannabis Prohibition laws.

    To learn more about jury nullification and its likely historical importance in helping to end Cannabis Prohibition, please checkout the Fully Informed Jury Association (a.k.a. FIJA) @ fija.org

    From New York Times

    Jury Statute not Violated by Protester, Judge Rules

    April 19, 2012

    By BENJAMIN WEISER

    The next time the 80-year-old retired chemistry professor takes his protest to the plaza outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan, he may make it home without being locked up.

    A federal judge on Thursday ordered the dismissal of an indictment against the professor, Julian P. Heicklen, who had been charged with jury tampering for advocating the controversial position known as jury nullification while outside the courthouse.

    Mr. Heicklen had repeatedly stood with a “Jury Info” sign and handed out brochures supporting nullification, the view that jurors who disagree with a law may ignore their oaths and vote to acquit a defendant accused of violating it.

    Prosecutors said such advocacy, “directed as it is to jurors, would be both criminal and without constitutional protections no matter where it occurred.”

    But the judge, Kimba M. Wood of Federal District Court, wrote that a person violated the jury tampering statute only when he or she knowingly tried to influence a juror’s decision through a written communication “made in relation to a specific case pending before that juror.”

    Judge Wood added that she would not “stretch the interpretation” of the statute to cover speech that was “not meant to influence” a juror’s actions in a specific case.

    Mr. Heicklen expressed pleasure at the ruling. “Not just for me,” he said. “I think it’s a major decision for the country.”

    He added: “This is better than having them throw me in jail.”  

    Mr. Heicklen had contended that he did not try to influence specific jurors; rather, he handed out brochures to anyone who passed by, hoping jurors were among them.

    Mr. Heicklen, who acted as his own lawyer, was assisted by two lawyers, Sabrina Shroff and Steven M. Statsinger of the federal defender’s office.

    Ms. Shroff said she was pleased by the ruling. “The right to speech is just so fundamental,” she said.

    Prosecutors declined to comment on the ruling. In a hearing last month, a prosecutor called Mr. Heicklen’s advocacy “a significant and important threat to our judicial system.”

    Judge Wood made it clear that the indictment could be dismissed merely on a reading of the plain language of the statute, which refers to trying to influence a juror through “written communication” in relation to an “issue or matter pending” before the juror.

    By taking that approach, the judge avoided First Amendment questions raised in the case, said Rachel E. Barkow, a law professor at New York University, who has written about nullification.

    “I don’t think sensible prosecutors should have even brought this case,” Ms. Barkow said, adding that Judge Wood had rejected “the government’s broader reading because it would arguably chill protected speech.”

    Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the ruling freed Mr. Heicklen to resume his activities outside the courthouse, at 500 Pearl Street.

    “But it has a much broader impact,” he said, “because there are people all around the country who do exactly what he was doing, and under this ruling they will no longer face the threat of prosecution.”

     

     

    35 Responses to “Can Fully Informed Juries Help Cannabis Prohibition?”

    1. Psu says:

      try em under federal law lmao

    2. Psu says:

      sales levies implemented at the local level

    3. Galileo Galilei says:

      “I don’t think sensible prosecutors should have even brought this case.”

      Now there’s a truly concise synopsis.

    4. Psu says:

      Interview police officers one by one… i told them i could be a farmer if it was legal

    5. Ross Lowe says:

      This certainly does pose “…a significant and important threat to our judicial system.” as prosecutors maintain. It is significant that it was a government employee who referred to it as “our” judicial system; it is certainly not a judicial system belonging to the great majority of Americans, and one which itself imposes a significant and important threat to that same majority of Americans.

    6. Galileo Galilei says:

      “jury nullification–whereby jurors are educated and informed about their right to vote not guilty in cases where they morally question the underlying law itself.”

      “Prosecutors declined to comment on the ruling. In a hearing last month, a prosecutor called Mr. Heicklen’s advocacy ‘a significant and important threat to our judicial system.'”

      So educated and informed jurors are ‘a significant and important threat to our judicial system.’

      This shows exactly how ROTTEN the drug war has become. The good news is that alcohol prohibition was still going strong a year before it all fell apart.

    7. […] Can Fully Informed Juries Help Cannabis Prohibition? Of the many numerous peaceful and constititionally-respectful means employed for decades by which cannabis law reformers have been to try to bring about about an end to Cannabis Prohibition laws, one of the most benign, yet most powerful arrows in the activist’s quiver is jury nullification–whereby jurors are educated and informed about their right to vote not guilty in cases where they morally question the underlying law itself (and not just to cast a verdict ‘for’ or ‘against’ individuals the government has charged with ‘crimes’). For almost 20 years NORML […] […]

    8. PUFFER says:

      All this has become an Obomination!

    9. Psu says:

      I got octopus coming out my ears main

    10. Mrs. Ratsrectum says:

      I got kicked out of the jury pool last time I was summoned because I told them that if the case was a nonviolent offense involving cannabis that I believed in jury nullification. What did I do wrong?

    11. No where to turn says:

      I live in Green River Wyoming, I am 50 years old. On the 19th of this month my home was raided by DCI. They brought Homeland Security with them and blocked off the entire street. The went door to door frightening my neighbors by telling them there were “deadly mold spores” on my pot plants. When they came to the door I offered to let them in and take them right to the small closet my 2′ tall pot plants were in. Instead they vented my home for an hour then put on Hazmat suits to carry out ten 2′ tall plants that were in between 2 and 6 weeks into flowering, two 6″ tall plants in vegetation and I think five 2″ tall clones. I was also growing lettuce, tomatoes and squash. I had no scales, no sign of distribution what so ever. I had approximately 1/2 ounce of dried and two containers full of roaches. The grow was designed to produce no more the 1 1/2 ounce to 2 ounces every 3 to 4 weeks. I usually had smoked everything and started on the roaches by the time the next two plants were dried and cured, making it so I never had more than 2 ounces of smoke-able medical marijuana at anyone time in my home.

      There were approximately 35 people involved in the raid. As I said they had DCI and Homeland Security, the DEA, the Fire Department, the Sheriffs Office and Local Green River PD. They brought in two Tractor trailers full of equipment. I would say a rough but fair estimate of the cost of the operation was $100,000. They charged me with misdemeanor cultivation but felony possession because they weigh the immature plants along with your dried smoke-able medicine.

      I have constant nausea and diarrhea from hep C which I had for 30 year or there abouts and ecoli I contracted in 2005 which tore up my digestive system I have muscles spasms and tremors that cause my head to shake uncontrollably due to a stroke like “episode” I had in 2008 that left me with a crushing constant migraine. I didn’t make these up so I could smoke. I was in the hospital for weeks with ecoli, my testicles swelled to the size of grapefruit and I was rushed to LDS Hospital in SLC. As for the “episode”, I was in Sydney Montana Cardiac Care unit for three day before being transported to Sweetwater Memorial and then the Utah heart Clinic. I was unaware that marijuana woud alleviate the symptoms until a few years ago. I made the choice then that the risk was worth it since I had no quality of life to speak of.

      I understand I broke the law and my only hope is that I can get the felony possession reduced to misdemeanor possession, but I was fired the minute they found out so I have no money to buy a lawyer and I fear that since so much money was spent and such a big production was made out of it that they will look silly if they don’t send me to prison. Now today I found out they can take my home even though there was no tax evasion going on due to distribution. I had no idea they could take your home for a few plants and a half a jar of marijuana.

      I do not drink alcohol, I don’t do drugs, I don’t sell the medicine I grow, I don’t smoke cigarettes, or use caffeine or nicotine in any form, I eat right and exercise daily. I am not a drug addict.

      They still haven’t finished finalizing the charges yet, there was a test tube full those “7 meal mints” that they thought were drugs that they sent to have analyzed. I bonded out but never put in a plea. I know if I take a court appointed attorney in I will certainly go to jail.

      Any advice or assistance you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

    12. If you live in Connecticut and want to end marijuana prohibition in our state, please take a minute to visit http://www.ctprimaryproject.com.

      Please pass this on to anyone you know in Connecticut!

    13. David762 says:

      “Can Fully Informed Juries Help END Cannabis Prohibition?” —- FTFY

      Yes it can! Right now, Fully Informed Juries are the ONLY way to end cannabis prohibition. We cannot rely upon “our” politicians for legal relief. We cannot even rely upon proponents of cannabis re-legalization to vote for their own self-interest. We have become tribal sycophants of the false paradigm of |D| or |R|, both political parties (largely) favor the preeminence of the state (authoritarianism) over free will, personal freedoms, and individualism. Until that changes, we are doomed to be slaves of the state, and most of the changes seen today trend toward globalization and global government — the wrong direction, thanks to corporate socialism.

    14. JWLaberdee says:

      When you get the notice for jury duty, fill it out in such a manner that you will be guaranteed to get on a jury. When they start asking questions designed to weed out sympathetic jurors LIE THROUGH YOUR TEETH. You just HAVE to know our adversaries will do no less to get THEIR way. When the other jurors want a “guilty” do not give in, do NOT explain your position.
      Most people don’t want to be on juries, so this tactic has better chances than you might think. Get on that jury,stick to your guns and there is NOTHING they can do about it.The jury is made up of the last truely free people in America.

    15. phrtao says:

      If this defense works for some then it follows that any one else in court for similar breaches of the law should argue their right to equal treatment (If it is Ok for some then it is Ok for me). Maybe it could be the thin end of the wedge for law reform – go get em !

    16. Jerber says:

      The Politics are all the same, whatever keeps them in office is the law. We need a change of Law Makers. I wish i could change it like the do!
      With a stroke of the pen. Maybe i am wrong but i think it is a part of something else.

    17. shawn christopher says:

      @Mrs. Ratsrectum….. the thing you did wrong was tell them that you believed in it. once you tell the judge your intentions to nullify, you can be taken off the jury. the key here is to put in a not guilty verdict and not tell them what your doing, otherwise, you nullify yourself, NORML should put something on their site that spell out these rules and explain jury nullification in the simplest way. I see lots of literature about why you should nullify a jury and your rights about it, but there is little if any, step by step directions about the process, here it is, vote not guilty, keep your jury nullification intentions to yourself, and don’t let the judge or prosecutors bully you into changing your verdict, they will bully you or try to intimidate you into voting the way they see fit or they will try to get you to slip up and admit your nullification intentions, the key is, you have the right to vote otherwise, Vote Not Guilty and stand your ground…..don’t be intimidated, they don’t like when this happens, it’s a REAL slap in the face to the legislative process when people actually get their say on laws, so the judge and prosecutor will do anything they legally can to get rid of you, STAND YOUR GROUND DON’T BE INTIMIDATED AND END THESE ARCHAIC AND DRACONIAN PROHIBITION LAWS ONCE AND FOR ALL!!!

    18. nhjury.com It worked to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor. See the video of how one man gave his closing argument.

    19. jed says:

      Im a poor farmer… corn subsidies are putting legitamate bussiness like me under.. cannabis is hard to grow right

    20. Psu says:

      Washington said “sow the indian hemp seed”

    21. Psu says:

      Prosecutor didn’t like u mrs. ratsrectum

    22. Jojo says:

      @No where to turn

      A number of places around may be able to help. Ask NORML here, ask friends who are familiar with the scenario. I think you have a lot of options. Perhaps even call around some lawyers. Ask them for help and you can maybe work out a payment plan or something. The big thing to do is get out the facts to as many people as possible and the truth with set you free.

    23. psu says:

      trade u for some afghanni

    24. Ray E says:

      Ron Paul for 2012, the man who wants to end the pointless incarceration of thousands, and has this zany idea of returning our government to it’s proper role, to protect the liberties of the people.

    25. Fed-Up says:

      no where to turn says:

      “they went door to door frightening my neighbors by telling them there were “deadly mold spores” on my pot plants”

      OMG, Talk about being pro-active… you should have seen the mold growing on my loaf of bread.I cut the mold out and still made a peanut butter sandwich. They should of quarantined the whole county!

      And what about the store that sold me a yeast product knowing full well that it had the potential to mold in certain room temperatures? i smell a Lawsuit…ha

      Don’t mean to make fun of an unnecessary and tragic violation,but that sounded absurd, the absolutely bizzare correlations they come
      up with is beyond reason….way beyond reason!

    26. Just An Observer says:

      Did Heicklen sue the state for malicious prosecution, false arrest or anything else relating to his arrest? If you want to get the government to back off, be prepared to go the distance and hit back harder than they hit you!

      Heicklen has a good chance to win such a suit if we’re going to let those who spill hot coffee on themselves to sue for large amounts and win, so why not give it a try?

    27. jed says:

      Fed-UP can i see ur affavit?

    28. Fed-Up says:

      jed says: Fed-UP ‘can i see ur affavit?’

      you mean for the store that sold me the yeast product ?…haha,that was a joke.I was trying to’ demonise something wholesome like bread– a health threat ‘with potential for mold, to illustrate how over the top and out of proportion this pro-active insanity is

      “There were approximately 35 people involved in the raid. As I said they had DCI and Homeland Security, the DEA, the Fire Department, the Sheriffs Office and Local Green River PD. They brought in two Tractor trailers full of equipment. I would say a rough but fair estimate of the cost of the operation was $100,000″

      Jesus Christ, He wasn’t building a bomb,this is a middle aged man growing a few plants to ease his health conditions and he is being treated like a terrorist.To me this seems absurd,and a waste of money and resources.they probably could have done the same job with 2 or three cops,

      “Now today I found out they can take my home even though there was no tax evasion going on due to distribution. I had no idea they could take your home for a few plants and a half a jar of marijuana”

      This speaks for itself…no more jokes.

    29. In my case US v Gerald Duval Jr and Jeremy Duval case# 11-20594 We were the firse in us history to be found guilty by jury on 04,20,2012. We were able to tell jury that we were within Michigain guidelines. Jury found us guilty. Over 100 plants manditory 10 years Gerald, 5 years my son Jeremy. sentencing date Aug 27, 2012. Our story Youtube: Gerald Duval Jr.
      Jerry Duval 517-605-9443

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