Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jan 2001
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2001 Newsday Inc.
Contact:  235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville NY 11747
Fax: (516)843-2986
Author: Holly Catania


Michael Massing ["Jurors to State Drug Laws: Throw 'em Out," Viewpoints, 
Jan. 10] correctly points out that an unfortunate side effect of frustrated 
potential jurors expressing their disgust with the draconian drug laws in 
New York is the elimination of those who speak their conscience from 
serving on juries in drug cases, resulting in even greater unfairness. 
People who care about the laws they live under are either precluded from 
expressing their dismay at the injustices of the system, or they are 
excluded from participating in the very process that they have a duty and, 
some would say, a privilege to be a part of.

There is a solution to this problem.

Jurors can use discretion through the screening process and exercise their 
discretion by voting "not guilty" in cases in which they believe the laws 
are unjust. In our criminal justice system, any juror can vote "not guilty" 
for any reason. By doing so in these cases, jurors could deal justly and 
mercifully by refusing to convict low-level drug offenders while sending a 
strong message to the state Legislature that the time for a change has long 
since come.

Holly Catania, Manhattan

Editor's Note: The writer, an attorney, is director of the Methadone Policy 
Project at the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation.
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