Sunday, March 09, 2008

Who References the Zenger Trial Anymore?

The latest edition of TIME Magazine has an opinion piece written by the majority of the writing staff of The Wire that criticizes our country's drug policy. Their disdain for the war on drugs is nothing new to those familiar with the show, in fact the essay acts as a sort of capstone remark for the entire series. What is new is their collective call for citizen action in response to the failures of our government, mostly in the form of jury nullification.

There aren't any politicians — Democrat or Republican — willing to speak truth on this. Instead, politicians compete to prove themselves more draconian than thou, to embrace America's most profound and enduring policy failure.

If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war.

Of course, in order for the citizenry to have the chance to utilize their right of such protest these drug cases would have to reach a jury in the first place. Many do not. Most cases are plea bargained between overworked public defenders and statistics hungry prosecutors. Too bad.

NPR has an interview with Dennis Lehane about the opinion piece.


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