The Human Solution International’s approach to teaching a defendant facing a court case for a non-violent charge has been proven to be effective. With the defendant often being acquitted, being charged with a lesser crime, or having little to no jail time if done properly.
The components of our self activism formula are:
ORGANIZATION: Organization is key to successfully advocating for yourself. Keep all court documents together in a binder or a folder. Dedicate another to organizing contacts- peers to write letters, attend court, help get attention to your case etc. Develop a phone/email/text tree- this is an efficient method of reaching people quickly.
EDUCATION: Cannabis is a victimless crime. Jury nullification is an integral part of educating those around you about a jurors rights. Fija.com is a valuable site to visit offering educational materials as well as strategies.
MEDIA: Getting your story out on any of your social media platforms goes a long way. Recording a video is the most successful medium. THSI has a writing team that is available at no cost to cannabis defendants. Lastly, all defendants are encouraged and welcome on any of mour three podcasts. You can find out to be a guest on any or all of them here:
Whether you've been convicted of a cannabis crime or any other human rights violation, THSI is here for you.
Once you have submitted your defendant form we ask that you call into A Cup of Joe which airs as a podcast as well as is live steamed on Facebook and YouTube every Wednesday at 5:00 pm PST. With viewership in the thousands every week this is a powerful tool to gain support. If you are a defendant you are guaranteed time to speak live on the show. The call in number is 1-646-929-2495.
Cannabis law is undergoing a piece-meal reform as more people across the nation come to realize it shouldn’t be illegal. Be prepared for laws and outcomes to vary drastically depending where your case takes place. Your physical location and type of charge must first be evaluated.
Do you have an attorney? If your charges are serious, you may want to consult with attorneys and see what resources you can manage to retain one. Hiring an attorney is too much money for many of us who live week-to-week, paycheck-to-paycheck, so you should do a lot of research yourself or educate your public defender if you are unable to hire a paid (hopefully cannabis friendly/educated) attorney.
The steps to completing a trial require defendants to appear before the courts numerous times for bail hearings, pre-trial hearings, motions and more. It is important to know that for purposes of bail, you are presumed guilty of any charge the DA can bring up against you no matter how little evidence actually exists to support the charges. These charges are often dropped later in the trial. What this means is that defendants often find themselves shocked to face large bail amounts based on merit-less charges that still land them behind bars for the duration of the trial or until they are able to post bail.
The Courts will often offer a plea deal that should be considered depending on your physical location, laws, and charges. You and your attorney know your case best. Depending on your life and responsibilities, a quiet and simple resolution may be what you feel meets your personal situation best. However, plea deals are acceptance of guilt in a crime and often times include jail or prison time as well as probation, heavy fines, fees and limits on your life for years to come. Take the deal or not, it will cost you at this point.
Your other option is to refuse the plea deal and take it to trial by jury of your peers. It is a scary thought to have a court organized to question you, your life and your actions. However, this could be an opportunity to both teach your community about cannabis and possibly be found “not guilty” through Jury Nullification. This option also could end up in a conviction often-times landing you in a similar position as taking the plea deal. It is a risk. If everyone took their cannabis cases to court, they would likely have to stop filing new cases for lack of funding to prosecute them. If you choose to take it to trial, we would suggest gathering as many friends, family members, and leaders/citizens from your local community to help with court support and locate or Start a THSI Chapter in your area.
In the United States and Canada, "voir dire" originally referred to an oath taken by jurors to tell the truth. Today the term generally refers to the process by which prospective jurors are questioned about their backgrounds and potential biases before being selected for a jury. It is a process where both sides select jurors for removal until the seats and alternates are filled with the jurors they are most satisfied with. This is where many open minded people are eliminated from the group. Sharing an understanding of Jury Nullification concept at this point will result in dismissal.
Jury Nullification occurs when a jury returns a verdict of “not guilty” despite its belief that the defendant is or may be guilty of the violation charged. By these actions, the jury nullifies a law that it feels is either unjust or applied inappropriately to the defendant whose life and liberty they hold in their grasp. This fundamental freedom concept is nestled in the idea that we live in a free nation set forth in the Bill of Rights by our Founding Fathers to protect the people from abuse of power. The Sixth of those Amendments to the Constitution affirms that in all criminal prosecutions, the defendant will have a fair and speedy public trial by an impartial jury of his peers. Thomas Jefferson was quoted to have said, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” Our freedom is built on this very principle.
John Adams, in 1771 said “. . . it is not only [the juror’s] right, but his duty, to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.”
In the US this concept dates back to pre-civil war era, when juries refused to apply the Fugitive Slave Act in cases where defendants were charged for assisting to free slaves. Later, during the prohibition of alcohol, juries nullified repeatedly likely contributing to the 21st amendment repealing alcohol prohibition. Several court cases have affirmed the juror’s right to nullify. In 1969 US vs Moylan, courts recognized “the jury has the power to acquit, and the courts must abide by that decision.” However, they also ruled that the court was not required to instruct or inform the jurors.
With roots as a legal concept in Common Law Courts of 17th century England, Jury Nullification is a doctrine developed in response to a juror serving on a case against William Penn and William Mead in 1670. The pair had been arrested for illegally preaching a Quaker sermon and disturbing the peace. Four jurors refused to find him guilty despite the judge’s repeated orders for further deliberation. After pressure from the judge, the jury found Penn guilty of a single charge and dropped all others. The Judge imprisoned those jurors for three days without “meat, drink, fire and tobacco” to force them to return a guilty verdict, but again they refused. They were then imprisoned for months before invoking their Writ of Habeas Corpus to Chief Justice Vaughan who released them, calling the power to punish a jury “absurd.” He further forbade other judges from punishing a juror who did not agree with them.
Different from Jury Nullification in many ways, a Hung Jury is one that cannot agree on a verdict despite extended deliberation, typically resulting in a mistrial. For decades, a 5% hung jury rate was considered normal according to a study of the American Jury, by Harry Kalven, Jr. and Hans Zeisel in the mid-1950’s. Many statistics show those rates have been increasing, some even quadrupling.
Jury Nullification or Jury Veto has been applied to the costly war on drugs. The most notable early was the case of US vs. Edward Rosenthal. During a 2002 trial a juror came to believe that she was not privy to all of the evidence available and sought advice from an attorney friend on whether or not she was forced to convict. During Jury Selection, this juror noted that questions about medical use were asked yet no relevant evidence was presented at any time during trial. The friend’s advice that ‘she could be punished’ lead to juror’s compliance, and Rosenthal was convicted. The jury was never allowed to see evidence that Rosenthal had been deputized by the City of Oakland, to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes as permitted by California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996. After the trial, many jurors were shocked to find out and publicly shared their frustrations. Rosenthal’s legal team submitted this juror’s testimony as evidence in the appeal and the verdict was overturned. Rosenthal was re-indicted after appeal and sentenced to just one day time served, three years probation and a fine.
Jury Nullification is an important albeit small part in the overall legal structure by which country is governed. Notice of Jury Service often disappoints many of us, as we have lost confidence in our legal system. What remains is that the Juror is the most powerful part of a criminal trial. Restore justice through civil service. A Juror with conscience is a defender of the people; a freedom fighter. This juror is one who educates themselves and others about Jury Nullification in order to protect American citizens from unjust convictions.
For more information visit Fully Informed Jury Association for more information at fija.org.
Read about how jury nullification saved a man from a 20 year sentence Seeking Justice: Hazed and Exposed; Attorneys, Activists and Journalists Come Together in Kansas.
The jury pool or jurors available to report for duty will certainly affect the possible outcome of any criminal trial. If a large portion of any major demographic of people are unavailable for jury duty, their opinion is not properly represented in the justice system. In the interest of justice, any citizen arrested should be given a fair and speedy trial by a jury of their peers. That is only possible if the jurors called, report for duty. Justice relies on diversity in jurors. Lack of diversity in jurors will lead to imbalance. For example, race-related hate crimes were judged poorly after the civil war. There were several reported imbalances where all white juries permitted the freedom of white men who were clearly guilty of murdering a black man. Or in the reverse, took freedom from a black man for defending himself from harm leading to the death of his white attacker. This perversion of justice illustrates for us how important jury service really is. Jury service is a duty to our fellow man to preserve justice for all, not the select few.
For many today Jury Duty means missed income, daycare and travel arrangements, and other out of the ordinary burdens that complicate our already challenging lives. Others are so overwhelmed with the travesties of justice we see in the media that they don’t feel that their time would be well spent. So few realize that it is only through jury service that we can be the change we all want to see in the world today. Without diversity there will be no justice, make sure the pro-cannabis opinion is represented, vote your conscience, and be the solution.
Public Defenders are assigned to individuals charged with a crime who have no legal representation. Working so closely with the courts, Public Defenders will often direct you to take a plea deal because past policies have led them to believe that a deal would be better than the results of a jury trial.
Often Public Defenders are portrayed as a part of the “problem” on cannabis cases in the past, but not anymore. The mentality that, by default “cannabis is criminal” is deeply ingrained in society for many decades through Reefer Madness and other historical propaganda. Now, people of all walks of life are capable of compassion and understanding where cannabis is concerned. Offer your Public Defender information about cannabis and offer them the opportunity to educate themselves on the matter. Public Defenders are often newly qualified attorneys overwhelmed with a huge caseload that leaves them with mere moments to spend with each of their clients. Working together with your public defender can benefit you both, and many others who should never become Cannabis POW’s.
Ask your Public Defender to visit our website and review the education & resources available. If you can, offer them THSI printed resources. If applicable, insist that your representative have an understanding of your state’s particular laws regarding Compassionate Medical Use. Review past successful court case strategies and arguments. Research the most recent court decisions pertaining to cannabis. See the Defendant’s Resource Guide for more information.