Jury Rights Day: Celebration and Discussion

Jury Rights Day Discussion

Join partners Allison Margolin and Raza Lawrence with guest speakers Kirsten Tynan and Stephanie Landa as we celebrate and discuss Jury Rights Day in America.

Background

Jury Rights Day on September 5 - commemorates the famous case of William Penn in 1670 which laid the foundation for the right that jurors have still today to conscientiously acquit someone by jury nullification.

Guest Speaker Kirsten Tynan: Specializes in jurors right to temper the law with mercy through jury nullification to deliver just verdicts.

Guest Speaker Stephanie Landa: President of freedomgrowforever.org


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What is “jury nullification”?

Jurors’ refusal to enforce unjust or unjustly applied laws is known as jury nullification, jury veto, or conscientious acquittal. It is extremely important because it acts as a a tool for citizens to exercise their right to restrain government.

This authority is our peaceful protection to stop corrupt government servants from violating our rights.

  • Black Laws Dictionary definition: “The people deserve the opportunity to make the decision that the law in this instance is obsolete and that this person does not deserve the conviction that following the law would otherwise command.”
  • Conrad definition: That court (Id. At 1254) quoted Clay S. Conrad’s definition of jury nullification in his 1998 Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine as the “right to refuse to convict if they believe that a conviction would be in some way unjust.”
  • Perfect example of Democracy playing out because the adverse parties are present in the courtroom and the jury’s verdict will directly affect them.

Nullification is not an official part of criminal procedure, but is the logical consequence of two rules governing the systems in which it exists:

  1. Jurors cannot be punished for reaching a "wrong" decision (such as acquitting a defendant despite their guilt being proven beyond a reasonable doubt).[9]
  2. A defendant who is acquitted cannot in many jurisdictions be tried a second time for the same offense.[10]
Significance of jury nullification:

Jury nullification is important because it can act as evidence that the rule of law among jurors gives them the ability and willingness to prioritize justice over the bureaucracy of specific laws.

Decisions of the jury could signal that while the jury feels a duty to uphold the law, they might find the punishments it imposes unduly punitive and overdue for reform. Law should reflect society’s preferences, however it can be a lagging indicator. It takes time for public opinion to actualize; and office seeking politicians wish to be certain of widespread support before staking their reputations on reformist legislation.

Role of jury in cannabis law reform:

In the United States, cannabis legalization has only been passed in referendums. The delay between the recognition of injustice and reparative legislative action renders jury nullification a valuable corrective. Unlike periodic lawmaking, the right of nullification may be exercised whenever an individual is charged with a crime.

US v Kleinman (9th Cir. 2018)

The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for panel rehearing by withdrawing a previous opinion, and filed a superseding opinion affirming a conviction and sentence arising out of the operation of purported medical-marijuana collective storefronts in California. A petition for rehearing was denied with the claim that the defendant was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his state law compliance. The district court gave an overly strong anti-nullification jury instruction, but the error was harmless. The district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for a Franks hearing; the district court did not err by declining to instruct the jury on defendant's joint ownership defense; the district court did not abuse its discretion by considering the government's late-filed objections to the present report; and defendant's 211 month sentence was substantively and procedurally reasonable.

Excerpt from “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” - Section written by Allison Margolin Jury Nullification and Reasonable Doubt: the People’s Check on the Government’s War on Victimless Crimes

“Despite the fact that much of society does not want the government to focus on the arrests of individuals for victimless crimes (like drugs and prostitution) and to refocus their energy on the prosecution of “terrorists,” the government’s arrest data reveals that thus far nothing has checked the relentless war against victimless crimes. The answer is jury nullification—a form of reasonable doubt whereby jurors exercise discretion (just as the police and filing deputy attorneys) to do justice by not enforcing a criminal law against a particular individual. In my paper “The Right to Get High,” I present a thorough argument on the unconstitutionality of criminalizing drugs. The government’s illegalization of the use of drugs violates our fundamental right to control, stimulate and manipulate one’s own brain and body; the right to cognitive liberty. This right is that upon which the Bill of Rights is based. The people deserve the opportunity to make the decision that the law in this instance is obsolete and that this person does not deserve the conviction that following the law would otherwise command.”

How can we apply jury nullification in the 21st century when racist and prejudiced individuals could use it for their own personal agendas:

In a time where our civil liberties continue to be threatened by a government truly more interested in legislating supposed morality than in protecting the country, there is no choice but to turn to the people. Jury nullification needs to be the people’s answer to the continued enforcement of draconian laws against its citizens.


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Join partners Allison Margolin and Raza Lawrence with guest speakers Kirsten Tynan and Stephanie Landa as we celebrate and discuss Jury Rights Day in America.