Thursday, March 06, 2008

Against the Drug War

Via Radley, here is an outstanding editorial by the creators of The Wire advocating an end to the drug war. At the end, they call for outright jury nullification:
If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.
Nice. Too bad this public manifesto means that none of the authors will ever be on the jury for a drug case. Our system is rigged to make sure drug-crime defendants never get the most sympathetic jurors.


Ran said...

In principle I agree — I could never vote (or whatever the term is) to convict someone for a pure drug offense — but as a practical question, I have to ask: what proportion of pure drug offense cases ever see juries, anyway? My vague impression — dunno where from — was that most such cases are handled by judges. (Obviously a defendant always has a right to a jury, but do drug offense defendants typically exercise that right?)

Glen Whitman said...

Ran -- I don't really know. But assuming you're right, I presume that is at least partially because jurors aren't allowed (or led to believe they're not allowed) to nullify. If they could, then defendants would probably demand a jury more often (or require better plea bargains).

Anonymous said...

...and let the Hedonistic Imperative begin!