Retired Professor Julian Heicklen was recently indicted on federal charges of jury tampering for standing outside the US Courthouse in Manhattan distributing information on “jury nullification”. Jury nullification is when a jury reaches a verdict outside of a judge’s instructions on the law. It has been used in the past to defy unjust policies such as the fugitive slave laws but has also been used by a jury in the South who refused to convict civil rights activist Medgar Evers. Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and Law Professor at George Washington University, wrote this piece in the New York Times, advocating for jury nullification. Submission post by Charisse Domingo
Jurors Need to Know That They Can Say No
By PAUL BUTLER
Published: December 20, 2011
New York Times
IF you are ever on a jury in a marijuana case, I recommend that you vote “not guilty” — even if you think the defendant actually smoked pot, or sold it to another consenting adult. As a juror, you have this power under the Bill of Rights; if you exercise it, you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer.
The information I have just provided — about a constitutional doctrine called “jury nullification” — is absolutely true. But if federal prosecutors in New York get their way, telling the truth to potential jurors could result in a six-month prison sentence.