Judge Finds "Increasing" Difficulty in Seating Marijuana Juries

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Dan Clore

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Dec 22, 2010, 3:42:03 PM12/22/10
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http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/judge-finds-increasing-difficulty-seating-marijuana-juries/
Judge finds ‘increasing’ difficulty in seating marijuana juries
By David Edwards
Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 -- 10:21 am

Judge finds increasing difficulty in seating marijuana juries

It's becoming more and more difficult to find juries that will produce a
guilty verdict in marijuana cases, according to a judge in Missoula
County, Montana.

"I think it's going to become increasingly difficult to seat a jury in
marijuana cases, at least the ones involving a small amount," District
Judge Dusty Deschamps said Friday after potential jurors refused to
convict a Montana man for having a 1/16 of an ounce of Marijuana.

An April 23 search of Touray Cornell's home found several used marijuana
joints, a pipe, and some residue. He's is also charged with the criminal
distribution of dangerous drugs.

Cornell's neighbors had called the police because they thought he was
selling drugs. The defendant admitted in an affidavit that he had
distributed small amounts of marijuana.

One potential juror after another told the court that they would not
convict the man for possessing a 1/16 of an ounce.

Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul told the Associated Press
that the jurors staged "a mutiny."

"District Judge Dusty Deschamps took a quick poll as to who might
agree," the Missoulian reported. "Of the 27 potential jurors before him,
maybe five raised their hands. A couple of others had already been
excused because of their philosophical objections."

"I thought, 'Geez, I don't know if we can seat a jury," Deschamps said.

Paul and Cornell's attorney, Martin Elison, worked out a plea deal
during recess.

Public opinion "is not supportive of the state's marijuana law and
appeared to prevent any conviction from being obtained simply because an
unbiased jury did not appear available under any circumstances," Elison
wrote in the plea agreement.

Cornell entered an Alford plea Friday, not admitting guilt, but
acknowledging there was enough evidence to convict him. The judge
sentenced Cornell to 20 years with 19 of them suspended, to be served
concurrently with his sentence in a theft case. Cornell was given credit
for the 200 days already served.

"I think it's going to become increasingly difficult to seat a jury in
marijuana cases, at least the ones involving a small amount," the judge
said.

"It's kind of a reflection of society as a whole on the issue," he added.

"If more potential jurors start turning down nonviolent drug cases, our
drug laws will change," Jason Kuznicki wrote for the blog The League of
Ordinary Gentlemen.

Jury nullification often happens when a law is perceived to be unjust.
During alcohol prohibition, nearly 60 percent of trials were nullified
by jurors. Nullification was also often used in cases involving the
Alien and Sedition and Fugitive Slave Acts.

In a more recent case, George Washington University law professor John
Banzhaf suspected that jury nullification was used to spare former
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Fully Informed Jury Association:
http://www.fija.org/

--
Dan Clore

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My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
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All laws are good, to those who draw a salary for
their enforcement.
-- Clark Ashton Smith


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