Is “JURY NULLIFICATION” a cause to go to jail for? Yes.
I ask and answer this because I’ll probably be arrested on Monday October 24 in front of the Ocean County Courthouse for passing out JURY NULLIFICATION awareness literature in defiance of an illegal verbal order issued by Lieutenant Green of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department at the behest of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. I feel no remorse for not complying with this unconstitutional order. So I expect to be jailed; the only question is, for how long??
How this came to be:
Last week libertarian activist and Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) member Jim Babb was ordered to leave the public area in front of the Ocean County Courthouse before being threatened with arrest and told he was being investigated for jury tampering for passing out fija.org—jury rights literature! (Please watch this video: http://fija.org/2015/10/23/juror-rights-educator-threatened-at-ocean-county-courthouse/)
This is bogus—it’s the prosecution that tampers with a jury. They are they ones who make sure the JURORS are uninformed of their rights, to ensure an advantage, to steal true justice from US—we the people.
Most people have no idea what jury nullification is, which is a shame because it was the intended barrier the Founding Fathers put in place in this country’s judicial system to prevent oppression by the government in the form of unjust, unpopular laws. So I will explain.
It’s the reason we have the Sixth and Seventh Amendments right to a JURY TRIAL—and a FAIR TRIAL. The founders of our country empowered juries to reject unpopular or unjust laws!
Jury nullification occurs when a jury returns a verdict of “not guilty” even though its members believe the defendant is in fact guilty of the violation with which he or she is charged. The jury effectively nullifies a law that the members believe is either immoral or being wrongly applied to the defendant (whose fate they are charged with deciding).
The New Jersey Constitution actually very clearly gives jurors this right to reject a law (article 1, paragraph 6): “In all prosecutions or indictments…the truth maybe given to the jurors as evidence…the jury may judge the law as well as the facts.” It is an absolute fact that jurors in NJ have the right to judge a law and reject any law. I believe in this and have tried for years to get this information out to potential jurors. I could just as easily be called Jury Nullification Man.
Prosecutors, judges, and even defense attorneys have self-servingly conspired to withhold this information from NJ jurors, as the Ocean County authorities are doing now. They all reap the benefits of an uninformed jury; they get to pretend they are the final arbitrators of the law, when that is Constitutionally false. I’ve been to numerous trials—judges actually lie to jurors by omission. When they give instructions to a jury, NJ judges NEVER inform the jury members that their duties entail the right to judge the very law the defendant is charged with violating, as per NJ Const. art. 1, par. 6.
As a very active marijuana legalization proponent, I know the stats—the marijuana laws are the most violated and unpopular laws on the nation’s books, and most people believe marijuana should be legal. I’ve always thought, even in the most Baptist of churches, members wouldn’t want to send someone to prison for a plant “GOD” created. If they did, plenty of Baptist churchgoers would say “not guilty” in the face of actual “guilt.”
I’ve been a proponent of utilizing jury nullification as a means of ending the WAR on POT for decades. It has been clear to me since the ’90s that if the American people knew they could simply ignore the prosecutors’ and judges’ explanation of a law and JUDGEDit themselves, certain laws like the marijuana laws wouldn’t be enforced by juries. I believe there would constantly be hung juries, which is what occurred during alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and with regard to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Juries rejected those laws themselves and refused to convict citizens for violating them. These actions of jurors helped destroy these unpopular laws, and I believe this is one route to ending cannabis prohibition now.
I openly have never complied with the marijuana laws. My signature quote is “F the law, smoke it anyway.” I’ve gone on trial three times for marijuana in the last 15 years. All three times I’ve tried to get my jurors to reject the law and find me not guilty despite my actually being guilty. (2-1)
During the first trial (September 2000), I was confident I could get at least one juror to reject the law and say “not guilty.” But on the third day of the trial I capitulated and accepted a plea deal. Yet, as part of my acceptance of the plea the judge—Judge Thompson—allowed me to poll my jurors after I accepted the deal. Four members of my jury indicated they would have said “not guilty” despite my having admitted to violating the NJ marijuana laws, and my insistence that the law was wrong, not I. I always regretted that plea, and my not standing by my beliefs. It was a rare moment of weakness on my part that cost me a couple years behind bars.
So when I went on trial a second time in May 2012 for possession with intent to distribute, I refused to hear any plea deals from Burlington County Prosecutor M. Luciano. Instead I represented myself and recited art. 1, par. 6 numerous times. Protestors, including Jim Babb, distributed jury nullification literature outside the BurlCo Courthouse, and the newspapers wrote about it.
I again presented a defense that I wasn’t wrong, the law was wrong. Unfortunately for Luciano, he got quite a shock when the jury hung 7-5. I knew seven jurors obviously rejected the law’s claim that I was trying to distribute.
Instead of leaving it at that “hung jury,” Unlucky Luciano decided to re-try me for the same charge in October 2012. I expected another hung jury but to my shock, the jury found me “not guilty” (12-0) despite the fact that I admitted to everything. Factually I was GUILTY of violating the law; I had a pound of marijuana, but obviously the members of my jury rejected that and found me “not guilty.” I tout this as a jury nullification verdict, as Trentonian Column Jeff Edelstein wrote at the time “JURY UPENDS MARIJUANA LAWS, WEEDMAN WALKS.”
I put my life and freedom on the line to prove a point and to bring public awareness to this concept as a means to defeat the Lawyer Associations’ WAR on POT and to support those who reject the lies of government that this most beneficial plant is a Schedule I controlled substance. By law a Schedule 1 substance has no medical value. So it’s clear marijuana is not a Schedule I drug, the government lies about this—especially in court. Hypocritically, NJ even passed its own medical marijuana law in 2010. Just look up the definition of “Schedule I drug” and you’ll see marijuana doesn’t fit, so in my opinion all jurors should acquit. The law is a lie.
I am free to write this column solely because the members of my Oct 2012 jury nullified the law in my case—thank you again. Otherwise I’d be three years into a 10-year sentence.
Which brings me back now to Ocean County. There is a trial going on there—a citizen named John Peditto, a Facebook friend of mine, is facing 10 years in prison for having 17 plants. He followed my case and decided to use the NJWeedman Defense: admit to everything and hope his jury utilizes jury nullification and rejects the law as well. I feel a connection with him, and an obligation to help him. He is attempting to pull his life/freedom out of the tyranny of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s vise like I did with the Burlington County Prosecutors in 2012.
If my getting arrested on Monday for passing out jury nullification literature makes the Tuesday morning papers and one of his jurors sees the explanation of jury nullification and realizes they too could simply say “NOT GUILTY,” I feel it will have been worth it.
F Lieutenant Green and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.