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Jury Amendment Fails in South Dakota

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    J.A.I.L. News Journal _____________________________________________________ Los Angeles, California November 6, 2002
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 6, 2002
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      J.A.I.L. News Journal
      _____________________________________________________
      Los Angeles, California                                          November 6, 2002

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      Jury Amendment Fails to Pass
      in South Dakota
       
      Juries will not rule on merits of laws
      By STEVE YOUNG
      Argus Leader

      published: 11/06/2002

      A move to allow criminal defendants to argue the merits of laws they are accused of violating was rejected Tuesday by South Dakota voters.

      With 769 of 844 precincts reporting, Amendment A was failing 77 to 23 percent.

      The proposal would have changed the state’s constitution to allow criminal defendants to debate the merits, validity and applicability of laws they were charged with violating.

      More specifically, it was interpreted as giving defendants the right to argue that certain laws should be ignored by the jury, or that there should be no punishment for breaking a bad law.

      Beresford lawyer Robert Frieberg said voters obviously saw that it would have been a flawed change in the justice system.

      “I think you saw among lawyers in particular, whether Democrats or Republicans, defense lawyers or prosecutors, they all thought this change was unwarranted,” Frieberg said. “They all saw it wouldn’t be helpful, but ... rather a problem for the justice system. And I think voters paid attention to that.”

      Amendment A supporter Bob Newland of Hermosa had characterized it as a common-sense change that would have allowed jurors to serve as a check and balance on well-intentioned laws that created unwanted results. Among the examples he cited:

      • An old man convicted of cruelty to animals for using his cane to defend himself from an attacking dog.

      • Or a woman convicted under an open container law after picking up empty beer cans along a road.

      Newland called Tuesday’s vote “disappointing.”

      “It’s not surprising given the level of vehemence and campaigning done by the state bar and the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association,” he said.

      “Obviously, we weren’t able to get our message out.”

      Opponents of the amendment insisted that passage of the amendment would foster injustice instead of justice – raising havoc in the justice system by resulting in different verdicts for people facing identical charges.

      Before the election, the two major-party candidates for attorney general – Republican Larry Long and Democrat Ron Volesky – issued a joint statement saying they were against it.

       
      Reach reporter Steve Young at syoung@... or 331-2306.
      This article was printed from: www.southdakotaelections.com
      Copyright 2002, www.southdakotaelections.com



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