New York Times: Letter in response to “The Jury’s Duty When the Law Is Unfair”

To the Editor:

What is hidden behind the heated philosophical debate that jury nullification generates are the real people and communities affected by prosecutorial and police policies. Paul Butler properly notes the disgraceful number of marijuana possession prosecutions in New York City. But what we need to be equally aware of is that drug prosecutions in this city almost invariably target people suffering from endemic joblessness, homelessness as well as mental health and substance abuse problems aggravated by collapsing and underfinanced social services.

As the moral and economic consequences of these misguided policies become more and more apparent to the average citizen, more and more of them will vow, as the writers for the show “The Wire” did in a Time magazine article, that “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.”

It is that righteous vow, and the insight behind it, that unnerves prosecutors and policy makers. It is high time that our leaders begin to curb the abuses of this misguided drug war, but until they do, each of us should join Mr. Butler in vowing to join the ranks of the nullifiers.

LETTERS: The Jury’s Duty When the Law Is Unfair

Published: December 28, 2011

Bronx, Dec. 21, 2011

The writer is a lawyer with the Bronx Defenders.

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