The Underestimated Power Of The Juror
Article from Reason by J.D. Tuccille.
After criticism by some local officials of a new program that refers people caught with four ounces or less of marijuana for fines and community service, El Paso, Texas, Police Chief Greg Allen turned out to be a surprise defender of bypassing the usual criminal justice rigmarole of booking, mug shots, and jails. While careful to emphasize that he’s no fan of drug legalization, Allen says it’s a waste of his officers’ time to put hours into an “an arrest that has no end result of a conviction because of jury nullification.”
This is only the latest evidence that rebellious jurors are putting limits on how badly government officials can treat the rest of us.
That leaves plenty of room for jurors to act—and they appear to be doing so with enthusiasm.
“Jury nullification, though still rare, appears to be on the rise in drug cases that reach the trial stage,” wrote Rice University’s Prof. William Martin in the course of a discussion on the impact of jury nullification on the state’s drug policy sponsored by Rice University’s Baker Institute and the Houston Chronicle. “But even if the numbers remain small, their impact can ripple outward.” He cited the case of a judge who experimentally offered jurors a chance to recommend penalties they believed appropriate in cases involving large quantities of drugs. “In the first case, they found the defendant guilty and gave him probation…We did another one just to see. Same result—huge amount of marijuana, probation. The prosecutors couldn’t believe it.”
Read the entire article in Reason.
Image Credit: By St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons