Something interesting happened in a Montana courthouse. Court officials were given a lesson â€” 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 Cornellâ€™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. […]
â€œI thought, â€˜Geez, I donâ€™t know if we can seat a jury,â€™ â€ said Deschamps, who called a recess.
And he didnâ€™t. […]
â€œPublic 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 stateâ€™s marijuana law and appeared to prevent any conviction from being obtained simply because an unbiased jury did not appear available under any circumstances,â€ according to the plea memorandum filed by his attorney.
â€œA mutiny,â€ said Paul.
â€œBizarre,â€ the defense attorney called it.
In his nearly 30 years as a prosecutor and judge, Deschamps said heâ€™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:
â€œI think itâ€™s going to become increasingly difficult to seat a jury in marijuana cases, at least the ones involving a small amount,â€ Deschamps said. […]
â€œItâ€™s kind of a reflection of society as a whole on the issue,â€ 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 â€œhardlinersâ€ who object to all drug use, including marijuana?
â€œI think that poses a real challenge in proceeding,â€ he said. â€œAre we really seating a jury of their peers if we just leave people on who are militant on the subject?â€
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.