Jury Nullification : Peers Refuse to Convict Disabled Vet in Pot Bust

Get Out of Jail Free / wayneandwax.

“Jurors should acquit, even against the judge’s instruction… if exercising their judgement with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction the charge of the court is wrong.” ~ Alexander Hamilton, 1804.

‘The Vietnam veteran walks with a cane, has bad knees and feet and says he uses marijuana to relieve body pain, as well as to help cope with post traumatic stress.’

Maybe this is how the war on marijuana ends.

A rural Illinois jury has found one of their peers innocent in a marijuana case that would have sent him to prison. Loren Swift (pictured below) was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, and he faced a mandatory minimum of six years behind bars.

According to Dan Churney at MyWebTimes , several jurors were seen shaking Swift’s hand after the verdict, a couple of them were talking and laughing with Swift and his lawyer, and one juror slapped Swift on the back.

The 59-year-old was arrested after officers from a state “drug task force” found 25 pounds of pot and 50 pounds of growing plants in his home in 2007. The Vietnam veteran walks with a cane, has bad knees and feet and says he uses marijuana to relieve body pain, as well as to help cope with post traumatic stress.

This jury exercised their right of jury nullification. Judges and prosecutors never tell you this, but when you serve on a jury, it’s not just the defendant on trial. It’s the law as well. If you don’t like the law and think applying it in this particular case would be unjust, then you don’t have to find the defendant guilty, even if the evidence clearly indicates guilt.

In jury nullification, a jury in a criminal case effectively nullifies a law by acquitting a defendant regardless of the weight of evidence against him or her. There is intense pressure within the legal system to keep this power under wraps. But the fact of the matter is that when laws are deemed unjust, there is the right of the jury not to convict.

Jury nullification is crucially important because until our national politicians show some backbone on the issue of marijuana law reform, it’s one of the only ways to avoid imposing hideously cruel “mandatory minimum” penalties on marijuana users who don’t deserve to go to prison.

Prosecuting and jailing people for marijuana wastes valuable resources, including court and police time and tax dollars. Hundreds of thousands of otherwise productive, law-abiding people have been deprived of their freedom, their families, their homes and their jobs. Let’s save the jails for real criminals, not pot smokers.

The American public is very near the tipping point where a majority no longer believes the official line coming from Drug Warrior politicians and their friends at the ONDCP, gung-ho narcotics officers protecting their profitable turf, and sensationalistic, scare-mongering news stories used to boost ratings. They are starting to see through the widening cracks in the wall of denial when it comes to marijuana’s salutary medical effects on a host of illnesses and its palliative effects for the terminally ill and permanently disabled.

People are coming to realize that not only have they been sold a lie when it comes to marijuana — they’ve been sold a particularly cruel lie, a self-perpetuating falsehood of epic proportions that has controlled U.S. public policy towards the weed for 70 years now. The extreme cruelty of the lies told about marijuana by drug warriors is in the effects this culture of fear and intolerance has in the real world — effects like long prison sentences for gentle people who are productive and caring members of society.

Because citizens are coming to this long-delayed realization, we are going to be seeing more and more cases like this where juries have chosen not to punish people for pot. As this consciousness permeates all levels of society, it is going to get harder and harder for prosecutors to get guilty verdicts in marijuana cases — and that’s a good thing.

Maybe this is how the war on marijuana ends… Not with a bang, but a whimper, as cousin T.S. would say.

What You Can Do

It is not only the juror’s right, but his duty to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgement and conscience, though in direct opposition to the instruction of the court.” ~ John Adams, 1771.

Source / FreedomsPhoenix / Posted by Alapoet / Jan. 30, 2009

Thanks to Ramsey Wiggins / The Rag Blog

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6 Responses to Jury Nullification : Peers Refuse to Convict Disabled Vet in Pot Bust

  1. Mariann says:

    We, the American people, are not known for our great mental swiftness. But sooner or later we do catch on. EVERY JURY HAS THE RIGHT TO MAKE ITS OWN DETERMINATION ON GUILT OR INNOCENCE. For more information, check out the Fully Informed Jury Association: http://www.fija.org

    ANY JURY CAN!!!!!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    That get out of jail free photo is misleading. This guy may not have to serve a jail sentence. But he’s not free of pain, the hassle or cost of obtaining the “illegal” drug which helps him manage that pain, or the stigma of having been tried for a criminal offense.

  3. Bill Meacham says:

    The real reason for laws against marijuana and other drugs is selective enforcement. Lots of people break the law, but the authorities bust only some. So lots of people think they can get away with it. If the authorities don’t like you for some reason — say, your political activism — they can bust you for your drug use. Drug law reform would be a good thing for democracy.

  4. Jury nullification is where some sentencing relief may come from, but that is a lot to put on citizens. What is heard in a courtroom and by a jury is only part of the problem because the feds sentence people to what is called ‘relevant conduct.’

    A jury can nullify and the defendant still get a federal sentence. A great legal paper on it, called Deconstructing the Relevant Conduct Guideline:
    Challenging the Use of Uncharged and Acquitted Offenses in Sentencing by Evans and Coffin is available online, at

  5. Mariann says:

    Nora — thank you, lady, for chiming in on this! Absolutely, jury nullification is not the final answer in ending the war on drugs. But what I love about the recent case in Illinois is what it is showing us about the overall mood of the American people. That may seem like a lot to conjecture from one little jury decision, but it comes in the wake of the El Paso City Council’s desire to initiate a

  6. Anonymous says:

    It is amazing how much government resources are spent locking up pot people. Let people grow their own and share with friends and we would take away a major reason the drug gangs and cartels have to exist not to mention cutting back on the number of prisons.

    Glad this vet caught a break. I hope more do.

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