Mod note: Best of Eddie, this was originally posted on 8/9/12.
This has me so mad I can't see straight. I'm going to do my dead-level best to ensure this post doesn't turn into a rant. For the most part, I've accepted how ridiculous, arbitrary, corrupt, and often evil the American justice system is. Still, I think it's one of the best in the world. But when it fails, holy shit does it fail.
Take the sad case of this Merrill Lynch broker who had a single Oxycontin pill in his pocket - a buddy had given it to him at a concert and he didn't even take it - and the mess that his life became when he was pulled over hours later. He'd never taken Oxy before, and hadn't planned to take it now. He said he was going to give the pill away. After being assured of a lenient sentence, he was induced to plead No Contest to possession. Then the lowered the boom:
Despite having no criminal record and never having taken Oxycontin, James was required to attend two Narcotics Anonymous meetings a week for an entire year, and 15 weekend-long state-run drug classes (the latter he was required to pay for). Despite the fact that he was going to school at night for his MBA, James was given a curfew, and had to be inside his own home between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day of the week, for the entire year. As a final punishment, the instructed James to immediately report his arrest to his employer, and to let his probation officer know when he had done so.
You can guess what comes next. Telling his boss meant an addendum to his U-4 which set off alarm bells atheadquarters, and he was fired two weeks later. Then he discovered just how difficult it is to get hired with his background. Not only because of the No Contest plea, but because his probation officer insisted on calling each company he interviewed with to verify that he'd been there. Now I ask you, how is he going to get hired when HR gets a call from a probation officer?
He ended up working as a fry cook. And his PO screwed him again. She told him that he could be out past curfew as long as he was at work, but didn't tell him he needed the's permission. That oversight bought him another two years of probation. He looked for finance work the whole time, but all that accomplished was every private background check company the banks used had a record of his conviction. So even when the record was expunged and technically no longer existed, he still couldn't get a job because now all these private investigators knew about it.
Six years of this guy's life went into the toilet over one pill he didn't even take.
How much longer are we as a country going to allow these sorts of miscarriages of justice? How many more lives have to be ruined for victimless crimes?
There is so much money in Prohibition for everyone involved (cops, judges, lawyers, prison guards, probation officers, drug cartels - don't think for a minute they want drugs legalized) that there is no way the laws are ever going to be overturned unless the people force them to do it. And if the Prohibition against alcohol in the '30s is any indication, this is how we can do it:
A lot of people think alcohol prohibition got repealed just because one day everyone woke up and said, "Hey, that was a really bad idea. Let's get rid of Prohibition." That's not what happened at all. The same rogues gallery of misery profiteers were making money hand over fist and didn't want Prohibition repealed. The people finally had to take charge, and they did it not in the ballot box but in the jury box.
Juries eventually refused to convict anyone of alcohol-related offenses, even if they were caught red-handed and were guilty as sin. This cost judges and prosecutors a ton of money, and their conviction rates went into the toilet. Eventually they did the math and decided that if they weren't going to get convictions anymore, they should just change the law so they could quit looking stupid.
And that, dear friends, is the beauty of jury nullification.
I honestly believe the only way we're going to change drug laws in America is through jury nullification. However, the judges and prosecutors have wised up, and if they even suspect that you're a fully informed juror you'll be thrown out of jury duty so fast it'll make your head spin. What's a fully informed juror? Glad you asked:
The primary function of an independent juror is not, as many people think, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by the government. The Constitution guarantees you the right to trial by jury. This means that government must bring its case before a jury of The People if government wants to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property. Jurors can say no to government tyranny by refusing to convict.
I realize I'm getting dangerously close to a rant here, and that's not where I want to go. I urge you to look into the Fully Informed Jury Association and download their free handbook on nullification. And as tempting as it is to get out of jury duty, if you're called do your utmost to get seated. If they're trying to convict someone of something ridiculous, regardless of their guilt, vote to acquit. It's the only way we'll get these ridiculous laws overturned.
Because you never know when you might be the guy getting pulled over and losing everything you've worked your whole life for over a pill your buddy gave you. Think about it.