When Don Doig and Larry Dodge founded the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) in Montana way back in the 1980s, they envisioned their organization growing to national boundaries. After many years of hard work and dedicated focus, and with impressive growth owed largely to volunteers and the expertise of sharp officers such as Iloilo Jones (national executive director) and attorney Roger Roots (Board member), the Fully Informed Jury Association is beginning to enjoy a well-deserved harvest.
FIJA has a wonderful website where Americans can begin to learn about the true justice system this nation’s founders created – a system of true justice which rests ultimately in the hands of ourselves and our good neighbors. http://www.fija.org/
Volunteers and activists who caught the vision have formed State chapters for FIJA, and donations have financed printed materials and the above linked website, which have spread the word about Jury Nullification from coast to coast and border to border. It is a happy word for Americans who are increasingly concerned about the burgeoning police state and a deaf government bureaucracy. The word is actually two words -
Just as Sheriff Mack’s message upholding the authority and duties of the County Sheriff rings with a Constitutionally-based hope for we citizens, FIJA’s message of jury nullification adds yet another dimension to grass-roots resistance to governmental tyranny. A good example of this has been reported by Yahoo News. Enjoy:
From Yahoo News on September 06 2012
New Hampshire Jury Nullifies its First Felony Marijuana Case
A major victory is scored for jury nullification with the acquittal of felony marijuana charges – and it’s all thanks to a “straight-laced little old lady” juror and participant of the Free State Project
Barnstead, NH (PRWEB) September 16, 2012
Doug Darrell beat the odds and walked home from his trial as a free man on Friday, a major win for the state’s new jury nullification law. Facing felony drug cultivation charges for growing marijuana plants behind his house, the 59-year-old Rastafarian saw all of the charges against him dropped after jurors in his trial successfully convinced their peers to nullify the case on the grounds that Darrell was simply trying to obey the customs of his religion.
“Many of us wondered what kind of precedent this would set,” said juror and FSP participant Cathleen Converse in an exclusive interview with Free Talk Live. “But after chewing on all of the possibilities and re-reading the definition of nullification, we all decided that the only fair thing to do was to vote with our consciences and acquit the defendant of all charges.”
Doug Darrell never had any run-ins with the law until 2009, when a National Guard helicopter flying below legal altitude while looking for drugs noticed that Darrell was growing marijuana in the back yard of his Barnstead home. Though the sighting could legally have been considered an invasion of privacy, federal drug authorities were notified anyway. Shortly thereafter, Darrell’s home was raided and the Rastafarian found himself staring down the barrel of a police assault rifle and facing multiple counts of felony possession of marijuana.
-end teaser from Yahoo News article. Please read entire article at Yahoo News-
Oath Keepers addendum: The above embedded links in the Yahoo article are themselves very interesting in this case. The juror who nullified the case has made this statement –
I don’t believe in divine intervention but providence definitely was in play. To put me in the spot, the enviable spot, of a jury seat with a sympathetic defendant accused of growing pot for personal use. Not only was I lucky enough to be placed on that jury, I was lucky to not have had previous knowledge of the defendant or the case as it all came down rather close to home. About a mile away from my home to be more specific.
On July 9, 2009 a military helicopter buzzed and circled the defendant’s home and likely mine as well. Pictures, warrant, search and seizure ensued. These were the facts laid out before us. There wasn’t any conflicting testimony, none. It’s pot; he grew it; he knew it. But not case closed.
Attorney Sisti’s opening remarks told the story. The facts were only part of the story. The real question was whether a guilty verdict was the just thing to do. Testimony was cut and dried like the evidence.
Closing remarks were more impassioned. Attorney Sisti laid out what nullification was for us. The key to the explanation was the difference between must and should in the judge’s instructions. The prosecutor’s closing arguments were framed to leave the impression that nullification was only for the most extraordinary cases and gave a life or death example.
Deliberations began slowly and disorganized. When someone asked if anyone knew about nullification, I gave a brief explanation of it, mentioning FIJA and that nullification helped end alcohol prohibition. There was little discussion. The facts of the case and whether intent was clear given the defendant’s claim of legal protection for his religious sacramental use of marijuana was discussed.
When the search was discussed, I disclosed that I knew where the house was as it was near my house. This earned me an invitation to the judge’s chambers. I am pleased to say that marble and mahogany were not apparent. His concern was that the jury might be compromised by this information was put before the attorneys and the other jurors. None of this deemed to influence us, so we all went back to deliberating. Close call.
This jury did have a diverse a makeup as can be expected in NH. There were a variety of individuals from a range of walks of life if not ethnic diversity. After a couple of hours, we felt at an impasse. People of both sides of the guilty/not guilty divide couldn’t see a way to come together. The judge instructed us to keep at it. A break for the night was needed to clear thoughts and concerns.
The next morning was more organized and with more discussion of intent. The consensus was forming though toward guilt. We could clearly see the defense was resting its case on the nullification argument. We put the facts aside to give nullification consideration. The written definition was requested and posted on a chalk board. Some discussion occurred regarding what would be extraordinary enough to nullify. Several law and order proponents (not to say we all don’t want some law and order) had serious concerns about the precedent a not guilty verdict would set. What kind of chaos would ensue if this became common? Would finding this defendant not guilty give him a pass to keep on breaking the law? One by one the responses were offered and chewed upon. I fully expected a deadlock. One juror even felt relief at the prospect on the chance that the prosecution would retry.
The turning point was when one of the jurors declared that after reading the definition on nullification its reliance on “conscientious feeling” and “fair result”. It nowhere said extraordinary. And thus the last three jurors agreed that they could nullify.
-end quoted passage from Free Keene dot com, here:
Additionally, from Reason Magazine dot com, we read:
A few months ago, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed a bill declaring that “in all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defense to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy.” Although the new law does not take effect until next January, a case decided yesterday in Belknap County illustrates the importance of the nullification power it recognizes. A jury unanimously acquitted Doug Darrell, a 59-year-old Rastafarian charged with marijuana cultivation, after his lawyer, Mark Sisti, argued that a conviction would be unjust in light of the fact that Darrell was growing cannabis for his own religious and medicinal use. More remarkably, Judge James O’Neill instructed the jury that “even if you find that the State has proven each and every element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find the defendant not guilty if you have a conscientious feeling that a not guilty verdict would be a fair result in this case.”
That is New Hampshire’ model jury instruction on the nullification issue, but each judge has discretion whether to give it. In this case, since Sisti argued in favor of nullification and the prosecutor, Stacey Kaelin, argued against it, O’Neill agreed to clarify the law by giving an explicit instruction. The jury, which deliberated for six hours on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, twice asked to hear the instruction again. Sisti, who has been practicing law for 33 years, says this is the first time he has persuaded a judge to tell jurors they have the power to vote their consciences. He hopes the new law will make such instructions more common, if not standard.
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