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Jury nullification continues to gain traction across the United States

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By Brent Daggett

Contributing writer for End the Lie

In 1782, Thomas Jefferson wrote in his tome, Notes on the State of Virginia, “it is usual for the jurors to decide the fact, and to refer the law arising on it to the decision of the judges.  But this division of the subject lies with their discretion only.  And if the question relate to any point of public liberty, or if it be one of those in which the judges may be suspected of bias, the jury undertake to decide both law and fact.”

This may seem like an antiquated statement, especially given our current state of affairs regarding unconstitutional laws, however the application of jury nullification is making its way back to the forefront.

Be sure to read Brent’s other recent articles on ballot access for third parties, free speech in schools and local currencies.

On June 18, 2012 Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire signed HB 146, which reads:

“In all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defense to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy.”

In other words, jurors have the right not only to be informed of jury nullification, but have the right to nullify a law if they have reason to believe the law itself is corrupt.

Even though the law does not go into effect until next January, jury nullification in New Hampshire has already occurred.

In 2009, Rastafarian Doug Darrell, of New Hampshire, was arrested after members of a marijuana eradication task force spotted plants from a National Guard helicopter flying over Darrell’s home in Barnstead.

Darrell’s lawyer, Mark Sisti, attempted to get the evidence suppressed, but to no avail, arguing the aerial surveillance was illegal, since the helicopter was below the Federal Aviation Administration of safe altitude, thus violating Darrell’s privacy.

Long story short, Darrell turned down all plea deals (he had 15 plants and did not even distribute), due to the fact he believed he did nothing wrong since marijuana is a sacrament in his religion and was cultivating it for medicinal use.

In Darrell’s second trial, which took place last month, he was acquitted and if he was convicted, Darrell could have received three and a half to seven years in prison for a Class B felony.

NH is not the only state practicing jury nullification.

In September, organic egg producer Alvin Schlangen of central Minnesota faced three misdemeanors of distributing unpasteurized milk, operating without a food handlers license and handling adulterated food.

Minnesota law prohibits the sale of raw milk “except directly to consumers on the farm when it’s produced.”

After a deliberation of 4 and a half hours, the six panel jury ruled not guilty on all three counts in Hennepin County District Court.

However, Schlangen is not completely out of the woods, as he is facing the same charges in Stearns County on November 2.

With these most recent cases, jury nullification is not some new revelation.

The first case of jury nullification can be traced back to 1670 in England when jurors refused to convict Quaker activists William Penn and William Mead on charges of unlawful assembly.

In 1735, jury nullification was introduced in America, in the trial of John Peter Zenger, who was the Printer of The New York Weekly Journal.

Zenger’s offense was constantly attacking Governor William Cosby, which violated the seditious libel law, prohibiting any criticism of the King or his appointed officers.

Andrew Hamilton, Zenger’s lawyer, argued the court’s law was outmoded and challenged that falsehood was the key component that makes a libel.

The jury only took a few minutes to deliberate before declaring Zenger not guilty. Since then, the truth continues to be a defense in libel cases.

Besides those cases, jurors at times refused to convict perpetrators of the Alien and Sedition Act, the Fugitive Slave Act and alcohol prohibition laws.

Opponents of jury nullification fear this precedent will lead to anarchy.

As to be expected, I disagree with that since I believe it is a fallacious argument.

If We the People have a Constitution, then our rights should continue to foster the cause of liberty and strike down laws which violate that foundation, otherwise we will inadvertently give power to the tyranny of the majority.

The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), who would probably agree with the aforementioned critique, is a group dedicating themselves to educate the American populace on the full powers of jurors, which includes the right to judge the merits of the law as well as the applications.

FIJA goes into further detail on how to protect citizens from abuses of power.

“The primary function of the Independent juror is not, as many think, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by government.

The Constitution guarantees you the right to trial by jury.  This means that government must bring its case before a jury of The People if government wants to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property.  Jurors can say no to government tyranny by refusing to convict.”

Currently FIJA bills have been introduced in Arizona, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and South Dakota.

With the decisions that have been rendered in New Hampshire and Minnesota, maybe it will unleash a trend in other states.

When the idea of jury nullification eventually becomes the norm (which may be wishful thinking) let’s hope caution is used by potential juries in order to prove the critics wrong.

For if discretion by jurors is not taken into consideration, then we could be on a slippery slope to this scenario:  “Where morality is present, laws are unnecessary.  Without morality, laws are unenforceable,” Anonymous (does not refer to the group, but is from an unknown source).

Edited by End the Lie

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9 Responses to Jury nullification continues to gain traction across the United States

  1. Pingback: Jury nullification continues to gain traction across the United States

  2. constitution October 13, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    Everyone should print that flier and hand them out

  3. Anonymous October 15, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    jury nullification is thoroughly suppressed information. it’s very clear why this is the case just from reading this article and using some common sense.

  4. RK October 18, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    Is the author or an admin aware if we are allowed to reproduce the flyer image?

  5. jUST A cOUNTRY bOY October 22, 2012 at 11:57 AM


  6. JH Hill December 9, 2012 at 1:43 AM

    To get a thorough understanding of Jury Nullification, one may read the book:
    “JURY NULLIFICATION: The Evolution of a Doctrine” by Clay S. Conrad — it is FANTASTIC !!!

  7. Don April 24, 2013 at 5:28 AM

    Unfortunately in Wisconsin there is a law against JN, and it was in response to several people who handed out flyers in various courthouses telling of your right to nullify. Numerous tea-party judges claimed that no one had the right to JN and pushed for a law criminalizing the practice. So now it’s a felony if you bring the subject up during jury duty or discuss it anywhere near a courthouse. And do you get a jury trial if you are charged? Of course, but the jury has no right to deny a conviction based on their belief the law should not have been written.

  8. Sam Fox August 29, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    Liken the article says, JN should be used with discretion. Not all laws are bad or based on control freak motives, lies & deceit. Cannabis prohibition falls into the category I listed & should face nullification if the defendant is non violent, not dealing to kids or connected to gangs, cartels or any violent organization.

    I see JN as a great tool against unjust confiscatory tax laws as well.

    The opposition to JN is mostly bogus. If JN could change the law at the fed or state level, opponents of JN would have a better point. JN ONLY applies to ONE case at a time & cannot in itself be used to re-write legislation.

    JN can however, send a good message TO lawmakers that We The People will not accept draconian legislation that undermines the Constitution &/or Bill of Rights. Cannabis prohibition & the war on some drugs does that undermining. As do draconian tax money confiscation laws.


  9. Sam Fox September 9, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Why do we the people need to exercise jury nullification?

    People are becoming more educated on WHY cannabis was prohibited. MJ prohibition is not based on facts. It is based on WR Hurst’s greed & fear based misinformation propaganda campaign.

    Hurst wasn’t even after the smoking variety of cannabis, he was after industrial hemp because he had a lotta $$ tied up in forest lands that produced paper for his news paper.

    Hurst’s efforts to prohibit industrial hemp has cost the world a LOT of trees. Hemp paper is far superior to wood for paper & 1,000s of pother products. Hemp is also a very excellent carbon scrubber.

    So where are the greens when we need ’em? Hemp is an environmentalist’s wet dream. :-)

    Topics for research on the subject:

    History of cannabis prohibition

    Uses for industrial hemp

    Rx drugs more deadly than prohibited drugs

    Henry Ford’s hemp car

    Cannabis really is a good medicine

    Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

    US Founders and Indian Hemp

    or a compilation of most of the above in the book

    The Emperor Has No Clothes by Jack Herer

    The war on some drugs came later & is now more dangerous than the illegal substances. Not a good thing.

    The Re-legalization of at least cannabis would save a lot of lives from prison & death. Cartels & gangs kill a lot of innocent folks in their turf wars.Now we have cops killing innocents because of “OOOPS! wrong address again” drug raids.

    It is far past time to stop the insanity.



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