Far-Right ‘Jury Nullification’ Concept Resurfaces in Marijuana Debate
David Neiwert over at Hate Watch reports on a disturbing new trend among some supporters of drug legalization. This is unusual becouse its one of those stories that kind of talks about both the radical right and the radical left. I associate drug legalization with the left, mostly, however, for the most part this story focuses on the radical right.
Can members of juries really stand in judgment of the laws they are sworn to apply? Can jurors really choose to acquit someone of a crime because they believe a law is unjust?
This concept - known as “jury nullification” - has been promoted in previous decades by far-right extremists who sought to “nullify” a variety of federal laws by encouraging jurors not to enforce them. The cases involved civil rights laws, tax statutes and criminal acts by white perpetrators aagainst black victims. It was avidly promoted in the 1990s by members of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, particularly so-called “Freemen” in Montana who promoted the sovereign citizen ideology.
More recently, it has popped up in the context of the debate over marijuana legalization. It was signaled by a 2011 New York Times op-ed that advocated nullification in court battles over marijuana arrests, which disproportionately affect young black men.