Jury Nullification: The Word Spreads to DC

Jury nullification advocates have launched a new billboard campaign on the Washington DC metro.  After raising $3,000 in a little over a week, James Babb put up his first billboard in the Judiciary Square Metro Station near the F Street entrance.  That placed it perfectly for prospective jurors en route to the DC Superior Court.

ScoffLawsThe signs read “Good jurors nullify bad laws,” and “You have the right to ‘hang’ the vote if you do not agree with the other jurors.”  They’ve drawn both positive attention and the ire of prosecutors who fear the message could influence their cases.  It only takes one juror to hang a jury, so if only one person out of a jury of twelve takes the message to heart, many guilty defendants could be acquitted.

A similar campaign is spreading nationwide as people see increasing numbers of laws – such as drug, gun and food regulations – as being useless or even unjust.  Babb, himself, has plans to put up posters in Los Angeles and Chicago.  In Oregon and Louisiana, ten of twelve jurors can choose to convict or acquit, but everywhere else follows the same laws as DC.  Prosecutors understand the implications of such laws, which is why some have been rejecting potential jurors who have seen the ads.

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In a world in which penalties are being imposed for more minor and more political actions, jury nullification may prove a useful tool in the fight against tyranny.  It would only work in criminal cases, not regulations like the employer mandate in Obamacare which would merely impose fines that push companies out of business.  Many illegal and immoral laws, though, do come with criminal penalties.

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One example, of course, is drug legislation, and another is controversial food laws.  Perhaps the most talked about topic, though, is self-defense and gun rights.  People can be charged criminally for having the wrong guns, ammunition or magazines for their area.  In a recent case a Connecticut man who had committed no crimes was arrested for having too many guns, and in another a New York man was arrested for having too many bullets in a legal gun.  In such cases, jury nullification could be not only helpful, it could allow entire areas of the country to remain relatively safely armed, knowing that a jury would nullify any conviction.

Jury nullification is not a well-known concept for most Americans, but the idea is allowed in American law.  As more and more unjust laws are passed, jury nullification could prove a useful tool in the fight against tyranny.  Campaigns nationwide, like James Babb’s billboards, are drawing attention to this check on government power in an attempt to return power to the people.

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