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Old 01-12-2014, 11:52 PM  
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Billboard Advocating Jury Nullification Concerns Local Prosecutors



The illuminated billboard in the Judiciary Square Metro station near the F Street entrance was strategically placed.

Prospective jurors who take the subway to D.C. Superior Court and exit near the National Building Museum see these words: “Good jurors nullify bad laws” and “You have the right to ‘hang’ the jury with your vote if you cannot agree with other jurors.”

Since the billboard went up this month, District prosecutors have been worried that the message could sway their cases. In the past week alone, they have asked judges in three *cases to ensure that jurors had neither seen nor been influenced by the billboard.

The billboard is part of a growing national campaign to encourage jurors who disagree with a law, or think a punishment is too harsh, to vote for acquittal. Kirsten Tynan of the Montana-based Fully Informed Jury Association, whose name and Web address is included on the billboard, said the nonprofit group generally challenges crimes it calls “victimless,” such as vandalism by graffiti or gun possession.

James Babb, a Philadelphia-based graphics artist who organized a fundraising campaign to put up the billboard, said he raised $3,000 in about a week through Facebook and other *social-media sites. He said he is concerned about laws that he thinks are too restrictive.

“People are going to jail for weed,” Babb said. “Things are getting so weird. There needs to be this final safeguard to protect us from a tyrannical government.”

Babb’s group has added a similar message on two pillars in Archives station, another Metro stop near the courthouse. Both displays are scheduled to be up for about a month. Babb said he also plans to place signs in other cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles.

Supporters of jury nullification in several cities have raised the ire of judges and prosecutors. In New York last year, an 80-year-old man was charged with jury tampering after passing out fliers about jury nullification to courthouse visitors; the case was later dismissed by a federal judge.

Locally, prosecutors have been scrambling to ensure that the billboard’s message doesn’t influence their *cases.

In a gang-related murder trial set to begin this week, prosecutors filed a motion asking the judge to question potential jurors about whether they had seen the billboard. They also requested that the judge remind jurors that their verdict should not be influenced by whether they agree or disagree with the law.

In their memo, prosecutors Todd Gee and Emily Miller wrote that jurors who see the billboard may think “they don’t have to abide by an oath” and that it could encourage them “to hang and to learn about the concept of jury nullification.”

In another recent murder case, the jury had already been sworn in and the trial was underway when prosecutors alerted Superior Court Judge Herbert Dixon to the billboard. Dixon, according to people familiar with the case, then asked the jurors if they had seen the billboard. No one said they had.

Days later, the jury found the defendant, Grant Johnson, 39, of Bladensburg, Md., guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of 32-year-old Ricardo Lancaster during a drug deal in 2012, prosecutors said.

And in a trial involving an assault with a deadly weapon, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brittain Shaw asked the judge to question potential jurors about the billboard. Days later, the jury found the defendant, Charles Link, 53, guilty in a knife attack in November that left one man injured.

The billboard also comes as Adam Kokesh, a Fairfax County-based gun rights activist, is preparing to go to trial after posting an Independence Day video on YouTube of himself apparently loading a shotgun in Freedom Plaza. He had been scheduled to go to trial Thursday, but the case was pushed back to at least Nov. 18.

Kokesh’s supporters have advocated for jury nullification in his case.

Tynan said the Metro billboard was not directly aimed at the Kokesh, who pleaded not guilty to carrying a pistol without a license, but she said that his case was the kind her organization targeted. “It’s a victimless trial,” Tynan said.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office said there has been no organized effort by prosecutors to address the billboard, but instead prosecutors have raised the issue on a case-by-case basis.

“Jurors in the District of Columbia play an important role in holding accountable the criminals who threaten and harm the people who live, work and visit our city,” U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement. But he added, “Jurors who ignore the law or refuse to follow the judge’s instructions embolden criminals who believe that they can get away with breaking the law and do harm to the community without any repercussion.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/...=auto_complete
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Old 01-13-2014, 01:18 PM   #16
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I recently got out of jury duty. "Thank you for inviting me today, I've always wanted to sentence someone to death." Might be on a list now but I only missed 3 hours of work!
That happened
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Old 01-13-2014, 01:20 PM   #17
Garcia Bronco Garcia Bronco is offline
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Spent all day on a jury one time to decide if a guy should be legally detained in a mental institution only for it to end at 5:30 pm on a mistrial. The guy was a batshit crazy racist too and obviously needed mental help.

If anyone has any tips for getting kicked off of a jury, I would love to know them.
Just say you think the guy is guilty without having heard more than what the defense attorney has asked you
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Old 01-13-2014, 05:59 PM   #18
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This really is problematic, because (with the exception of death penalty cases), jurors aren't allowed to know what the punishment for the crime is going to be they are told that is a concern for the court after they decide the facts.

Many jurors probably read billboards like these assuming they will prevent some great injustice, when in many cases, the defendant is only looking at probation or a minor sentence or something. Jurors also don't get to know someone's criminal history, which may mean that a defendant has already gotten a bajillion chances prior to this trial and they are letting a pretty bad guy off the hook.
Jury nullification has nothing to do with a sentence. Jury nullification is when the jury believes that the defendant broke the law but the law itself is unjust.

So, the jury is not only judging the defendant but also the law under which the defendant is being tried.
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Old 01-13-2014, 06:18 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by GloucesterChief View Post
Jury nullification has nothing to do with a sentence. Jury nullification is when the jury believes that the defendant broke the law but the law itself is unjust.

So, the jury is not only judging the defendant but also the law under which the defendant is being tried.
Not really. More that they just don't think it should be applied in that case, for whatever reason.
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Old 01-13-2014, 06:49 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by cosmo20002 View Post
Not really. More that they just don't think it should be applied in that case, for whatever reason.
Well, the typical jury nullification we see today (weed laws) is closer to nullifying an unjust law.

I'm also open to the slim possibility of nullification in some weird unique case where the law is usually fine, but off the top of my head, the only crime that I can think of that I would never vote guilty for are Marijuana laws. I might have a problem with other drugs, too. I presume I'll never serve on a drug jury, since I imagine they'll have questions which will weed me out, I won't lie to get on a jury to hang it.

edit: just remembered one of those weird unique cases that I might nullify for a law thats 99.99% fine. There was a case somewhere out west where a guy who was raped by a priest when he was a child, the authorities all ignored him, years later the statute of limitations was long gone he tracked him down and beat him up.

The trial happened last year, the guy straight up basically said in open court "I did it, now here's why" (while pleading not guilty), and the jury actually found him not guilty. That sparked a few nullification stories and hand-wringing over approving of vigilante justice. Some of the jurors wanted to vote for a misdemeaner assault (the DA allowed that as an option, clearly fearing nullification since that was obviously the defense strategy even though they could not tell the jury about nullification), but only 8 of them were willing to vote for that, so they hung on even the minor assault charge.

Will Lynch found not guilty of beating priest
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Last edited by alnorth; 01-13-2014 at 06:56 PM..
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Old 01-13-2014, 06:52 PM   #21
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Or unconstitutional weapon laws.

A lot of people seem to forget, or not be aware of, jury nullification played a big role in the repeal of prohibition.
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Old 01-13-2014, 06:53 PM   #22
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Or unconstitutional weapon laws.

A lot of people seem to forget, or not be aware of, jury nullification played a big role in the repeal of prohibition.
Also against the fugitive slave laws before the civil war.
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Old 01-13-2014, 07:09 PM   #23
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I don't know, I think of nullification as a sort of "check and balance" for our justice system.
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