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December 2010
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The Power of the People

Something interesting happened in a Montana courthouse. Court officials were given a lesson — that this is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

The government can try to hide the truth from the people, but when they do, it will find its way out (whether it’s WikiLeaks acting as a release valve for excessive secrecy, or Drug WarRant telling the truth about the drug war).

And eventually, if the government continues to push a lie, people will exercise their Constitutional duty to be the final check on government.

The tiny amount of marijuana police found while searching Touray Cornell’s home on April 23 became a huge issue for some members of the jury panel.

No, they said, one after the other. No way would they convict somebody for having a 16th of an ounce.

In fact, one juror wondered why the county was wasting time and money prosecuting the case at all, said a flummoxed Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul. […]

“I thought, ‘Geez, I don’t know if we can seat a jury,’ ” said Deschamps, who called a recess.

And he didn’t. […]

“Public opinion, as revealed by the reaction of a substantial portion of the members of the jury called to try the charges on Dec. 16, 2010, is not supportive of the state’s marijuana law and appeared to prevent any conviction from being obtained simply because an unbiased jury did not appear available under any circumstances,” according to the plea memorandum filed by his attorney.

“A mutiny,” said Paul.

“Bizarre,” the defense attorney called it.

In his nearly 30 years as a prosecutor and judge, Deschamps said he’s never seen anything like it.

Not a mutiny. As commenter Kaptinemo notes:

No, this was no ‘mutiny’. This was an application of the principle behind jury nullification as it was meant to be applied against unjust laws.

There was an important point raised in the article:

“I think it’s going to become increasingly difficult to seat a jury in marijuana cases, at least the ones involving a small amount,” Deschamps said. […]

“It’s kind of a reflection of society as a whole on the issue,” said Deschamps.

Which begs a question, he said.

Given the fact that marijuana use became widespread in the 1960s, most of those early users are now in late middle age and fast approaching elderly.

Is it fair, Deschamps wondered, in such cases to insist upon impaneling a jury of “hardliners” who object to all drug use, including marijuana?

“I think that poses a real challenge in proceeding,” he said. “Are we really seating a jury of their peers if we just leave people on who are militant on the subject?”

That’s an important point. Sort of like death-qualifying a jury on a capital case, there is a real Constitutional issue when summarily eliminating any potential jurors because of their beliefs about the drug war. It makes a mockery of the notion of a jury of peers and attempts to short-circuit the legitimate role of citizens as judges of the law.

I’m hoping we’ll see a lot more of this in the future.

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53 comments to The Power of the People

  • One more thing.......

    …To arrest people over. Seems these legal ‘incense’ are now out lawed by the dea….one more thing to ruin a teenagers life over, one more thing to spend money on.

    How is it the dea is able to make law? Arent they just a law enforcement agency? Any lawyers wanna explain that one?

    • Irie.ites

      The U.S. Constitution limits the fed gov by delegating the DUTY to make laws to CONGRESS.

      Where does the Constitution permit Congress to delegate its duty to an unelected agency? Nowhere.

      Everyone, please read the Constitution on Jan. 6, along with U.S. Congress. Let’s all read it aloud. Together. (maybe I’m wrong about that pesky “delegation of duty” Constitutional issue, if so, I’ll stand corrected.)

      Also, big-ups to Montana jury. True patriots. Thank you, one & all. This story needs to be in the hands of every person in US. While you’re at it, join the TEAPOT PARTY started by Willie Nelson. meetup.com/teapotparty

  • kaptinemo

    Damu99, you might find this of interest:

    The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States by Charles Whitebread, Professor of Law, USC Law School; A Speech to the California Judges Association 1995 annual conference

    It provides a very clear, concise, easily readable treatise on the (overtly racist) origins of our drug laws.

    Another excellent source of information is the visual novel A Drug War Carol, modeled after the Dickens classic. Once again, it delves deeply into the demonstrably, undeniably racist beginnings of this policy and how it has gravely distorted and poisoned US jurisprudence. They are both well worth the time…