Juries Must Learn to Just Say NO
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
Juries Must Learn To Just Say 'NO'
By Joel Miller
2003 WorldNetDaily.com 2-8-3
When the jurors who last week convicted medical-marijuana
cultivator Ed Rosenthal later expressed disgust with their
own ruling, I actually yelled at my computer: "Well then why
didn't you take Nancy Reagan's advice and just say no?"
The trial was a joke from the start. Because Rosenthal was
being tried under federal law, not California's, the judge
forbade any discussion of the Golden State's medical
marijuana statute or the fact that Rosenthal was growing the
pot with the special sanction of the city of Oakland. As a
result, the jury was not allowed to consider any such
With no possible defense left, Rosenthal's attorney, Robert
Eye, made what the Sacramento Bee called "a thinly veiled
plea for jury nullification."
"Please do justice," he said. "We don't ask you to check
your common sense of justice at the door when you judge this
case. I can only hope there are those of you whose sense of
Jumping on Eye, the judge interrupted and told the jury,
"It's not your determination whether a law is just or
unjust. That can't be your task." Going further, according
to jurywoman Marney Craig, the judge instructed, "You cannot
substitute your sense of justice for your duty to follow the
The judge is wrong.
"If the jury feels the law is unjust," according to the
Fourth Circuit in the 1969 case U.S. v. Moylan, "we
recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even
if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by a judge,
and contrary to the evidence. If the jury feels that the law
under which the defendant is accused is unjust the jury has
the power to acquit" (emphasis added).
Some buck at the notion of jury nullification. They see it
as going against the rule of law - a dozen anarchists
passing judgment on a whim. Endowed with such power and the
guilty will walk free because a chili onion supreme didn't
sit well in the stomach of the jury foreman.
Perhaps - but the founders didn't see it that way.
"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet
imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the
principles of its constitution," said Thomas Jefferson in a
1789 letter to Thomas Paine. His comments presuppose laws
which go above and beyond the national charter (such as drug
prohibition today) and the jury's vital role in seeing that
no citizens are harmed by such tyrannical legislation.
John Adams, the second American president, sang from the
same hymnal. "It is not only [the juror's] right, but his
duty," he said in 1771, "to find the verdict according to
his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though
in direct opposition to the direction of the court."
Likewise, in an 1804 libel case, Alexander Hamilton argued
that "the jury have an undoubted right to give a general
verdict, which decides both law and fact."
"This distribution of power, by which the court and jury
mutually assist, and mutually check each other," Hamilton
continued, "seems to be the safest, and consequently the
wisest arrangement, in respect to the trial of crimes. ...
To judge accurately of motives and intentions, does not
require a master's skill in the science of law. It depends
more on a knowledge of the passions, and of the springs of
human action, and may be the lot of ordinary experience and
In other words, the people are deemed sensible enough to
decide when one of their fellows is getting the shaft from
an unjust law. This only makes sense. The people are judged
sensible enough to elect legislators in the first place. If
things go awry after the ballot box, the jury box provides
one more place to check and stop the progress of tyranny by
nullifying bad laws passed by those legislators.
Far from viewing nullification as a gateway to random
enforcement of law and anarchy, the founders viewed it as an
essential tool for combating despotism and preserving
liberty - one more method of denying absolute power to any
single man or governing body.
What is so striking about nullification and the Rosenthal
case in particular is how applicable the reasoning of the
founders proves to be. The law violated the consciences of
the jurors and was unconstitutional, to boot.
"There is no such thing as medical marijuana," DEA spokesman
Richard Meyer told the Associated Press. "We're Americans
first, Californians second."
In terms of the law, that is unmitigated bull.
The U.S. Constitution gives the federal government no power
to prohibit pot. Article 1, Section 8, provides
congressional marching orders on many tasks - banning weed
is not one of them. Neither is skirting the 10th Amendment,
which specifically holds the duties of the government to
what the Constitution permits; all else is the business of
the states alone.
Such is the case with California's medpot law, Prop. 215,
which permits precisely what Rosenthal was doing.
By nullifying, the jury would have been fulfilling
Jefferson's perceived role of the jury, holding the
government to "the principles of its constitution."
It's too bad the judge lied to the jury before it found
Rosenthal guilty. Had they known better, the jurors may have
felt free to follow their own conscience and sense of
justice and thus spared an innocent man from a travesty.
Find out more about the rights and duties of juries at Fully
Informed Jury Association at:
Joel Miller is managing editor of WND Books.
Additionally, he runs his own publishing house, Oakdown.
Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
All my fiction through 2001 and more. Intro by S.T. Joshi.
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News for Anarchists & Activists:
Said Smygo, the iconoclast of Zothique: "Bear a hammer with
thee always, and break down any terminus on which is
written: 'So far shalt thou pass, but no further go.'"
--Clark Ashton Smith