Pubdate: Mon,  9 Jun 2003
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2003 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Burt Schmitz


Editor -- Columnist Debra J. Saunders doesn't have it quite right in saying
that U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer "was right to try to prevent jury
nullification" in the case of Ed Rosenthal and medical marijuana
("Convictions and conviction," June 5). 

Constitutionally, the ultimate authority in a courtroom does and should
remain with the people through the lawful existence of jury nullification. 

In 1215, the Magna Carta established a jury of 12 to protect against the
abuses of King John. This was incorporated into English law, and
subsequently into American law through the Constitution. It is the ultimate
safeguard against the tyranny of a colluding Congress, president and courts. 

Naturally, a judge wouldn't want such an undermining of his or her authority
in the fiefdom of a courtroom, and isn't going to voluntarily tell a
potential jury member about this, but the ultimate authority does remain
with the people through jury nullification. (Besides covering a juror's
finding against an unjust law, it could include disregarding the judge's
instructions to the jury.) 

My experience serving on a jury is that jurors do take their
responsibilities seriously, and discuss and consider the facts and logic of
a case, often contrary to the doubtful suspicions of too many prosecutors
and judges. 

Burt Schmitz

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