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Lonecowboy

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One of the government’s best kept secrets, sadly; is that juries not only have the power, but the right to acquit when the law is clearly unjust. Although the courts won’t advise juries of this additional option, termed jury nullification; it has been recognized since the founding of our nation, as one last check in our system of checks and balances to protect us from unjust laws and tyranny.


Our first Chief Justice, John Jay, told jurors: "You have a right to take upon yourselves to judge both the facts and law."

WAS THIS MEARLY SYMBOLIC OLDTIMER?

A funny thing happened on the way to a trial in Missoula County District Court last week.

Jurors – well, potential jurors – staged a revolt.

They took the law into their own hands, as it were, and made it clear they weren’t about to convict anybody for having a couple of buds of marijuana. Never mind that the defendant in question also faced a felony charge of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs.

The tiny amount of marijuana police found while searching Touray Cornell’s home on April 23 became a huge issue for some members of the jury panel.

No, they said, one after the other. No way would they convict somebody for having a 16th of an ounce.

In fact, one juror wondered why the county was wasting time and money prosecuting the case at all, said a flummoxed Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul.

District Judge Dusty Deschamps took a quick poll as to who might agree. Of the 27 potential jurors before him, maybe five raised their hands. A couple of others had already been excused because of their philosophical objections.

“I thought, ‘Geez, I don’t know if we can seat a jury,’ ” said Deschamps, who called a recess.

And he didn’t.

During the recess, Paul and defense attorney Martin Elison worked out a plea agreement. That was on Thursday.

On Friday, Cornell entered an Alford plea, in which he didn’t admit guilt. He briefly held his infant daughter in his manacled hands, and walked smiling out of the courtroom.

“Public opinion, as revealed by the reaction of a substantial portion of the members of the jury called to try the charges on Dec. 16, 2010, is not supportive of the state’s marijuana law and appeared to prevent any conviction from being obtained simply because an unbiased jury did not appear available under any circumstances,” according to the plea memorandum filed by his attorney.

“A mutiny,” said Paul.

“Bizarre,” the defense attorney called it.

In his nearly 30 years as a prosecutor and judge, Deschamps said he’s never seen anything like it.

*****

“I think that’s outstanding,” John Masterson,who heads Montana NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), said when told of the incident. “The American populace over the last 10 years or so has begun to believe in a majority that assigning criminal penalties for the personal possession of marijuana is an unjust and a stupid use of government resources.”

Masterson is hardly an unbiased source.

On the other hand, prosecutor, defense attorney and judge all took note that some of the potential jurors expressed that same opinion.

“I think it’s going to become increasingly difficult to seat a jury in marijuana cases, at least the ones involving a small amount,” Deschamps said.

The attorneys and the judge all noted Missoula County’s approval in 2006 of Initiative 2, which required law enforcement to treat marijuana crimes as their lowest priority – and also of the 2004 approval of a statewide medical marijuana ballot initiative.
And all three noticed the age of the members of the jury pool who objected. A couple looked to be in their 20s. A couple in their 40s. But one of the most vocal was in her 60s.

“It’s kind of a reflection of society as a whole on the issue,”said Deschamps.

Which begs a question, he said.

Given the fact that marijuana use became widespread in the 1960s, most of those early users are now in late middle age and fast approaching elderly.

Is it fair, Deschamps wondered, in such cases to insist upon impaneling a jury of “hardliners” who object to all drug use, including marijuana?

“I think that poses a real challenge in proceeding,” he said.“Are we really seating a jury of their peers if we just leave people on who are militant on the subject?”

7th Amendment to our Constitution:
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law."



This was one of the colonists' ways of protecting themselves from unjust laws and it leads to the second reason the Founders included the 7th Amendment in the Bill of Rights - trial by jury provides a bulwark for the people against the government. Juries are not required to base their decisions on the wishes of government officials, but can choose to declare a person innocent of a crime they are accused of committing if they think it is the right thing to do so.


Read more: http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/7th-amendment.html#ixzz1i2AZNTN8


Have a nice day oldtimer! :D I am!
 

Steve

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Thankfully for Judge Deschamps the case ended before trial. Cornell agreed to a felony conviction of distribution, for which he received a sentence of 20 years in prison with 19 suspended.

by the look of he will be spending a bit of time away. unless he changes his ways...


I have seen jury nullification cases often, and seldom agree with the motives.. but I am more outraged by the miscarriage of justice by egotistical prosecutors..

sadly there is little recourse to bad judges, overzealous prosecutors and bad laws,

the federal government spends billions if not trillions to enforce the laws for drugs against citizens, yet needs to have hundreds of pounds of smuggled drugs before they will intercede on smuggling cases.. claiming it is just a poor immigrant being used by the cartels,

once the government ceased to be fair, the citizens will try to compensate and more nullifications will happen, until the law is a hollow shell and street justice is swift..
 

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