Jury Nullification in the Drug War

The lead writers for HBO’s show The Wire wrote a great piece in TIME this week railing against the War on Drugs. Their suggested approach: jury nullification. They say,

“If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun’s manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.

Jury nullification is American dissent, as old and as heralded as the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, who was acquitted of seditious libel against the royal governor of New York, and absent a government capable of repairing injustices, it is legitimate protest.”

I share their outrage, as most of you know. But, this is not an approach I’ve given much consideration. The primary reason is that it seems most of us with a strong opinion against current drug laws are likely to be excluded from serving on such juries.

Nonetheless, I’m in favor of anything that helps move us beyond these draconian policies. I salute these guys for taking a stand, out loud. More should.

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