In an interesting article published at U.S. News, the United States Supreme Court decided that jurors, not judges, would decide if mandatory minimum sentencing would apply.
SCOTUS: Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences in Jury’s Hands
Many mandatory minimum sentences are imposed for drug offenses
By ELIZABETH FLOCK
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a jury, not a judge, should have the final say on facts that impose mandatory minimum sentences for criminals.
In particular, the 5-4 ruling will make it harder to impose minimum sentences on drug offenders, because they are among the most frequent to receive those sentences. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
[READ: ACLU Marijuana Study Finds Blacks More Likely to Be Busted]
“Mandatory minimums for drug offenders will lessen, but it’s difficult to say to what extent,” says Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which opposes mandatory minimum sentences. “It’s also likely that this will have beneficial effects in reducing racial disparity, because so many mandatory minimums are imposed for drug offenses, and because African-Americans in particular are on the receiving end of those penalties.”
Read the rest of the story here –
In Keene, NH, the trial of Rich Paul began today. He’s a noted marijuana activist facing up to 81 years for selling plant matter that approx. 1/3 of all Americans have consumed at one time or another in their lives. Statistically speaking it is likely that at least 4 of the jurors on his case have consumed marijuana at one time or another. Did this make the person they may have obtained it from a criminal that should be jailed for 81 years?
Paul was set up by the FBI, the New Hampshire State Drug Task Force and a “concerned citizen” (unsavory informant) in the spring of 2012 . Not surprisingly, the concerned citizen / informant was “cooperating” with law enforcement in order to reduce or eliminate his own pending drug charges. Of course “cooperating” can mean many things depending upon your point of view and how tight the vise gripping certain parts of your anatomy is being turned. To Paul’s credit, he chose the correct moral path and refused to “cooperate”. This is probably because he can discern that something legal isn’t always morally right and something illegal isn’t necessarily morally wrong.
As the trial approached Paul was offered a plea deal of “no jail time” if he would forego the trial. Which begs the question, If Rich Paul is such a dangerous “criminal” why would the state offer him a plea deal of no jail time? Perhaps it’s because the State is afraid that if principled people like Rich Paul continue to stand up and demand a trial, the State’s practice of putting people in jail for victimless crimes will come into question, as it should. Also, the State seems deathly afraid to risk the chance that ONE principled juror will recognize the courage it takes to stand up and maybe, just maybe see through the sham that is this ridiculous thing called “the war on drugs.” Not guilty. Two words that no juror can be ever be punished for saying. Two words conscientious jurors uttered to help end slavery in the United States and that hastened the end of the prohibition of alcohol. Two words that strengthen the concept that each and everyone of us, should own our own bodies.
Of course now that the trial has begun, the state will do everything it can to get a conviction. Should that happen, it raises another question of a more rhetorical nature. If just one day before this trial the state was willing to negotiate a plea that involved no jail time, they were essentially acknowledging what many of us already know. That Rich Paul doesn’t belong in jail and poses no threat to other people. However, by showing the courage to stand up Paul is a very real threat. Not to you or me mind you, but to those that make a living chasing people for behavior that involves a substance far less harmful than that which the State of New Hampshire sells, alcohol.
Courage isn’t always following arbitrary rules. That’s obedience. Blind obedience is what the State wants. Rich Paul needs at least ONE PRINCIPLED JUROR to show the kind of courage he has shown. One is all it takes.
John Connell 54, Pastor of the Peaceful Assembly Church of Grafton ,NH has been informing jurors of their rights for about 20 years. He began doing this while living and working in Salem, Massachusetts fulltime. Upon learning years ago that juror’s were routinely misled by unscrupulous government employees and often ignorant of what their rightful powers are, he decided to act.
Connell was a regional coordinator for FIJA or the Fully Informed Jury Association for several years in the 1990s. Additionally he has provided testimony at State Legislative hearings as well as enaging the public regularly regarding “jury nullification topics. Lately he’s taken to sporting some signs along route 4 touting NHJury.com. (thanks John!) . Both of these organizations, FIJA.ORG and NHJury.com focus on raising awareness of jurors and the public in general.
No matter what the brand is, John reasoned that the primary goal, to inform people of the proper role of a juror is so important that he’s spent countless hours and lots of his own money over the years trying to achieve this. We whole heartedly commend all of those efforts.
Recently Pastor John authored a town warrant article:
To see if the Town shall notify the voters of Grafton of their natural and historic right and responsibility as jurors, sitting on juries in all cases including grand juries, to judge the law as well as the facts before them, a right recognized by the State of New Hampshire with the passage of HB146 (Laws of 2012, c.243) and codified as RSA 519:23-a, which states that “in all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defense to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy.” The information shall be sent by the Town to all voters individually via first-class mail, and shall be prepared entirely by volunteers, information which may include pamphlets prepared by the Fully Informed Jury Association, a federally-recognized 501(c)(3) organization. All costs shall be paid using voluntarily raised funds.
John figured that since runaway government had kept jurors knowledge of their rights in the shadows, he’d use the town warrant article process to heal the damage done. Connell thinks this idea may catch on and other peaceful individuals may want to try this in their town. He mentioned he’d be happy to show people how easily they could do this too, just contact him at John@Peacefulassemblychurch.org. or (603) 523-7111.
The warrant article got a lot of votes, but in the end it didn’t pass. Undaunted Connell intends to see this project thru. He’ll use his personal funds along with a few donations from friends and supporters.
Please join NHJury.com in giving John a big thumbs up and consider giving a small donation to help fund this project. You might save an innocent person.