About . . . . Classes . . . . Books . . . . Vita . . . . Blog. . . . Podcast

by Peter Moskos

March 6, 2008

The Wire, the War on Drugs, and Jury Nullifcation

There's a great article in Time by Ed Burns, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, and David Simon. They're the writers for the best show ever, The Wire.

It's a powerful piece and you should read the whole thing. Needless to say, they write well.

Interestingly, they argue that for jury nullification, a concept I have long loved.

"If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented."

As long as one member of a jury votes to acquit, conviction is impossible. It happened during Prohibition and there are some examples in our current War on Drugs. Vote your conscience. Refuse to convict regardless of the law, the evidence, or the suspect's guilt. It's a statement with impact. And it's a very powerful right we the people have against unjust laws.

"Jury nullification is American dissent, as old and as heralded as the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, who was acquitted of seditious libel against the royal governor of New York, and absent a government capable of repairing injustices, it is legitimate protest."

It's a clever idea and I support it.

"It will not solve the drug problem, nor will it heal all civic wounds. It does not yet address questions of how the resources spent warring with our poor over drug use might be better spent on treatment or education or job training, or anything else that might begin to restore those places in America where the only economic engine remaining is the illegal drug economy. It doesn't resolve the myriad complexities that a retreat from war to sanity will require. All it does is open a range of intricate, paradoxical issues. But this is what we can do — and what we will do."

No comments: