Monday, January 2, 2012

We Can Change Marijuana Laws

"It is not only his right but also his duty... to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgement, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court."
~John Adams

Everybody knows that the point of a jury is to find a defendant either guilty or not guilty, but how many of you know that jurors actually have the power to judge the laws themselves? This is often referred to as the power of jury nullification, and is  unknown to many jurors. When sitting on a jury, the court informs the jurors of their duties and responsibilities, but tends to leave out this unconstitutionally protected power and right of the jurors.

The power of jury nullification is put in place by the Founding Fathers to give the people another protection against tyrannical rule. Throughout history this de facto power of jurors has helped change laws and even lawmakers' attitudes towards certain laws. During the mid-1800's, prosecutors who would bring slavery law abolitionists to court would find an overwhelming difficulty in trying to convict defendants on such charges due to the power of jury nullification. With such a large portion of the American population in the north opposed to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, verdicts of not guilty were many times handed down simply because jurors found the law itself guilty of being unconstitutional. This is also around the time that courts happened to leave the power of jury nullification out of the jury information speeches during trials. When the government passed prohibition into law, prosecutors found themselves in the same predicament. The large amounts of 'not guilty' verdicts being handed down into prohibition cases played a hand in the eventual repeal of prohibition as a law.

What does the power of jury nullification mean for the jurors sitting on trial juries today? It means that since a verdict has to be unanimous, it is possible for one juror to produce a hung jury by simply refusing to convict a person of a law that is unfair or unconstitutional. This, obviously, does not apply to laws such as murder, since it is well understood that the overwhelming majority of the population does agree that laws such as these are very constitutional and in the best interest of the American public. In cases such as some marijuana laws, though, the power of jury nullification is a very important right of each and every juror.

For more information on this, and all other jury powers, please see Fully Informed Jury Association. FIJA is a group dedicated to educating the American people on their rights and powers as a juror, no matter how little information is directly provided with regards to these powers during jury trial cases.

I also want to say that this is not a surefire way to end marijuana prohibition. There are so many ways for us to get active, this is just one small fish in the uphill battle to legalize marijuana. To get active, visit for all the information you need to get started.

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