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September 10, 2008

Is Governor Palin is a real fan of jury nullification and pot decriminalization?

Writing here in Reason, Radley Balko has a very interesting take on Governor Sarah Palin. The piece is titled, "A Decent Pick: Libertarians could do worse than Sarah Palin," and here are snippets:

Palin was also one of just three governors in the country to issue a proclamation in support of "Jurors' Rights" day, an event sponsored by the Fully Informed Jury Association, which encourages the doctrine of jury nullification.  Nullification is an idea abhorred by tough-on-crime conservatives.

Palin also comes from a state whose constitution has one of the strongest privacy provisions in the country.  Alaska's traditional reverence for privacy and personal autonomy is reflected in a number of issues that would likely be at odds with the national Republican Party — or at least the Bush administration — including a rejection of the Real ID Act, and the de facto decriminalization of marijuana.

Some recent related posts:

September 10, 2008 at 09:41 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I am utterly convinced that most Republicans simply would not know what to do with a McCain/Palin administration. He fancies himself as another Teddy Bear and that is like, so 100 years ago. Seriously, I think deep in their hearts most of them would prefer Hillary to McCain.

Posted by: Daniel | Sep 10, 2008 10:43:16 PM

Anyone remember the moderate, work-across-the-aisle Bush II administration we were sold in 2000? Don't worry - once Palin propels McCain to victory, the right-wing nuts will take over.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 10, 2008 10:58:25 PM

Cheye Calvo, mayor of DC suburb Berwyn Heights, was raided by a SWAT team after 30lbs of marijuana was delivered to his home. They broke down his door, shot his two black labradors, and interrogated him and his wife as their dogs bled to death.
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Posted by: Tanyaa | Sep 10, 2008 11:16:34 PM

As a prosecutor, I have no problem with the concept of jury nullification if and when the jury is allowed to hear all relevant information. Since the jury nullification decision most often turns on whether a particular defendant should be convicted, that person's criminal history or bad character then becomes relevant to the question. I have yet to see a serious advocate of jury nullification agree that jurors should be able to hear such information.

Posted by: David - prosecutor | Sep 11, 2008 9:42:25 AM

um, no...jury nullification isn't about whether a particular person (or kind of peron) should be convicted, it's about whether the defendant should be convicted of a law the jury considers unwise (facially or as applied in the circumstances).

criminal history/bad character aren't relevant to that decision (except for the usual credibility purposes, under the usual circumstances).

Posted by: pubdefender | Sep 11, 2008 11:39:14 AM

um, no...jury nullification isn't about whether a particular person (or kind of peron) should be convicted, it's about whether the defendant should be convicted of a law the jury considers unwise (facially or as applied in the circumstances).

criminal history/bad character aren't relevant to that decision (except for the usual credibility purposes, under the usual circumstances).

Posted by: pubdefender | Sep 11, 2008 11:39:45 AM

I guess these would be the libertarians that have no interest in various rights to privacy or federal earmarks. She's very much opposed to the former and in favor of the latter.

Posted by: talithajd | Sep 11, 2008 12:32:38 PM

I don’t know why David made that mistake. A decision by jury to acquit someone because they didn’t believe either 1) the government’s proofs; or 2) the defendant’s story is not nullification. In many cases, prosecutors simply put on liars for witnesses or cops that seem to be lying. Some prosecutors know the difference, some don’t. In some cases, prosecutors are simply not good lawyers. Whatever the case, when prosecutors scream “nullification” they are usually trying to avoid responsibility for a failure to adequate prepare a case.

Perhaps, at some level, a jury might acquit someone by choosing to ignore an instruction on a defense. So, for example, there might be some jurors that have moral problems with the concept of self-defense, and therefore, would vote to convict a juror despite an adequate self-defense argument.

So, in the end, I think the problem with David’s argument is that he is confusing substantive law with restrictions on evidence. Jury nullification doesn’t aim to judge a person as a whole, but rather to allow a jury to second-guess a legislature.

It would be interesting to see if David has a more coherent argument. However, I doubt it. I think he is just trying to make excuses.

Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 11, 2008 12:54:24 PM

What Gov. Palin seems most to be in favor of is whatever it takes to get elected.

Odd that apparently you can support all sorts of government intrustion into private life possibly even to the point where you can censor what people can read in a library, but if you come from a state that supports legalized pot, you're a "libertarian." No wonder no one takes libertarians very seriously with "reasoning" like that.

Juries should have the right to nullify verdicts, but one should be cautious with support of jury nullification coming from someone connected to the Christian Right - this could be a sign that she thinks that jurors should be able to acquit nutcases who shoot abortion doctors or beat gay people because the juries feel that the victims were violating God's law. While its possible that she supports loosening the grip of the unproductive drug war and letting jurors nullify harsh mandatory minimums in those cases, there is nothing in her past record which says that she supports "good" jury nullification which is the jury speaking out against the decision to criminilize private conduct or penalize using harsh mandatory minimums for private conduct. There are things in her history that suggest she might support "bad" jury nullification which is jury nullification based on hostility towards the victim.

Posted by: Zack | Sep 11, 2008 2:39:51 PM

"um, no...jury nullification isn't about whether a particular person (or kind of peron) should be convicted, it's about whether the defendant should be convicted of a law the jury considers unwise (facially or as applied in the circumstances)."

Sorry, I have to say that your "as applied in the circumstances" may very well require some knowledge of the perpetrator. Most assuredly, the jurors will want to know.

S.cotus - no excuses here. But I do not agree that one can so easily divorce the offense from the offender. I do agree that a not guilty rarely is jury nullification, even in the minor crimes.

Posted by: David | Sep 13, 2008 12:56:58 AM

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