• Jury nullificaiton needs its 12 Angry Men. I could imagine a weekly drama like The Good Wife doing this. It needs more exposure.

  • Hey David,

    I thought you might appreciate that I’m pushing for “The House I Live In” to be screened at my place of employment. That place being the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s sub-headquarters at Johns Hopkins Bayveiw.

  • Thanks for this! Recently, when I went to serve jury duty, I intended to mention my moral objection to criminal prosecutions of non-violent drug offenders. But it turned out to be a theft case, and they wound up sending me home. Good to know a bit more about jury nullification in any case.

  • This topic makes me nervous. Maybe because I’m a terrible liar. I can see the greater good here, but am glad this writer acknowledges it’s downside.

    And just in case the author is reading this, Go The Fuck To Sleep is the best parenting book ever.


      • Probably a poor choice of words on my part. Going into a trial with a lack of transparency is more what I mean. In my naive world, we are all playing by the same rules and there are no ulterior motives.

        However, I totally get that this is for the greater good. I just don’t know that I could pull it off. No poker face.

        • If they ask a question in voir dire that reveals your disconnect from the drug war, then they do. And you tell the truth.

          If they don’t, you are an American citizen, cognizant of arguments and opinions and certain moral standards, and your right to jury nullification goes back more than three centuries. You’re not lying or doing anything wrong.

          And if asking the right question becomes a permanent function of voir dire, then there is a victory in that. It means that it is getting harder to find twelve citizens to put a thirteenth in prison for a non-violent drug offense. And that, too, can grind the system toward paralysis.

          • Thank you. Of course your argument makes a ton of sense.

            When I was just out of college, I was called for jury duty on a murder trial. I was asked about my feelings on capital punishment and whether I could sign a death warrant. At age 22, I wasn’t as sure as I am now of my opinion. I was dismissed from the jury and have wondered what I could have done or not done had I been there. He was convicted and is now on death row.

            I understand that you are talking about non-violent crime which is a whole different ball of wax, but the intersection of rules and conscience interests me. Of course, if you don’t even know you have that basic right, how can you make an informed decision?


  • In their initial op-ed I believe that Mrs. Simon and Burns said that they would not lie in voir dire, so if asked whether they would convict somebody of a non-violent drug offense, they would feel compelled to say that they would not. It’s an interesting question though.

  • I received a jury summons this year and went through the moral dilemma of whether I should lie. All for naught, we were dismissed.

    Does anybody track the numbers of people who are disqualified from jury duty because of issues like jury nullification or just disbelief in a system of “justice” so rigged against the poor?

    Lastly, I support, whole heartedly, the legalization of marijuana. But I don’t want the drug law reform to stop there, either. How do we support both ideas at the same time?

  • I consider jury nullification a right, but the courts and prosecutors have been extremely hostile to it. One man was arrested for jury tampering after handing out pamphlets on jury nullification in front of a courthouse (the charges were dropped a year later). And when people have put billboards up promoting jury nullification, courts and prosecutors have used it to question potential jurors for qualification purposes.

    This raises an important ethical question: if being on a jury is your right as a citizen and you know that you would be disqualified if you disclosed knowledge of jury nullification, then do you have a moral right to lie about your knowledge of jury nullification to get on a jury? I think you do because I think the disqualification is unconstitutional. If courts were disqualifying atheists from serving on juries, I think atheists would have a right to lie about their atheism. In the same vein, I think you have a right to lie about jury nullification, but you have to be smart about it. All it would take would be a search of your internet records to find out what you know about jury nullification to get enough information to charge you with perjury. As such, jury nullification is likely to remain a ‘secret’ right. If you have ever said that you are aware of this right, you will not be able to use it.

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