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"Chuck Norris doesn't read books; he stares them down until he gets the information he wants out of them."
- ChuckNorrisFactsdotcom

Friday, January 30, 2004
I was reading
this post and I was struck by this paragraph:
"I also remember the changes wrought by the Warren Court, and the broader social upheaval of the 1960's and 1970's. I remember a time when calling someone a "homo" was one of the deepest insults imaginable. I remember legal censorship of sexual material. I remember a time when movies could be "banned in Boston" and when it was against the law to send any kind of "pornography" through the mail. I remember laws about "sodomy" which could have sent a married couple to jail because the wife gave her husband a blow-job, or because they did it "doggie-style".

I remember when the movie "Deep Throat" came out and became the first breakout hard-pornography success, the first hardcore film that many "respectable" people went to see. I remember theater owners being brought to trial for showing it and I remember when they were acquitted through jury nullification of the obscenity laws under which they had been charged. In response, legislators all over the nation woke up to the fact that public opinions about sex were changing, and began to change the laws to follow them."
I've been meaning to write about jury nullification for a while now. As the snippet above illustrates, it's a fabulous safety mechanism. No matter how unhappy we may be with a law, the power to reject that law rests with us the citizenry. Jury nullification is rare. Most people don't even know about it. But it's still one of the most powerful most rarely used of the country's rudders. It's unfortunate that jurors are punished or booted if they're foolish enough to talk about it. It seems that, as an individual juror, if you are aware of the concept you must keep your mouth shut. Our own great state claims that "No state currently allows jurors to reject laws." Quick someone get them the memo!
"Nullification is generally not a clearly-defined right protected by legal statute. Rather, it is an inherent aspect of the jury system under common law, sometimes justified as a safeguard of last-resort against wrongful imprisonment and government tyranny. Nullification actually derives from a pair of separate common law precedents: the prohibition on punishing jury members for their verdict, and a similar prohibition on retrying defendants after a not-guilty verdict has been handed down."
You can't prevent juries from voting their conscience under those rules (and if those rules change it's time to get the hell outta Dodge,) you can only prevent them from doing so by leaving them in ignorance or by lying to them.

posted by Rachel 1/30/2004
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