With few options left for people to protect themselves from the ever growing police state, an old and long forgotten aspect of constitutional law is making a huge comeback, and becoming very popular in cases where people are facing jail time for nonviolent offenses.
This reemerging defense is the act of jury nullification, which is basically the right for any juror to not only judge the facts of the case, but to also actually judge the validity of the law itself.
This means that if a jury feels that a defendant is facing an unjust charge they actually have the right to rule in their favor even if they are technically guilty.
Ed Forchion is a medical cannabis user and cancer patient known as the “NJ weedman”.
Ed claims dual residency in Pemberton Township, New Jersey and Los Angeles, California. Due to his residency in California he has a prescription for Cannabis and is legally allowed to grow and consume the plant in that state.
However, he is not legally allowed to possess the plant in the state of New Jersey and unfortunately while in New Jersey on April 1, 2012 Forchion was stopped by police and found with a pound of cannabis and $2,000, enough to get slapped with a distribution charge.
At an earlier trial last spring, he was convicted of possession, but that jury could not reach a unanimous decision on the more serious distribution charge, leading to this week’s retrial.
With the distribution charge he was facing 10 years, and it is likely that the jury couldn’t send him away with a clear conscience.
Ed’s primary strategy throughout his whole ordeal has been jury nullification, much to the dismay of Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey, who presided over both trials.
Forchion was passionate in his closing arguments, wearing a shirt that said “Marijuana … It’s OK. It’s Just Illegal” and telling the jury that he had been munching on pot cookies throughout the whole trial.
Then at one point he was nearly held in contempt of court for trying to advance his jury nullification argument.
Considering the fact that most of the nonviolent offenses on the books today are extremely unpopular for a variety of reasons, you would think that jury nullification would be household knowledge, or taught in schools even.
However, this is a very well guarded secrets, with many judges actually preventing the defense from informing juries of their right to nullify laws that they feel are unjust.
When Forcion started to talk about nullification, Delehey quickly stopped him, reminding him that he wasn’t allowed to go there, but Forchion fought back with intelligence and intensity.
Frustrated, the judge ordered the jury out of the room and told him he would be held in contempt if he continued to speak the truth.
According to Phillyblurbs the judge told him “If you want to make a martyr of yourself, the court will deal with you. You’ve done everything you can to disrupt this trial.”
There has been a constant tug of war between the defendant and the judge for the past year.
During last May’s trial, Forchion and his supporter’s placed pamphlets about jury nullification on cars parked in the jury parking lot and were very vocal about the illegitimacy of the law and the juries right to decide the validity of the law.
In pretrial motions, which were subsequently barred from being argued before the jury, Forchion challenged the constitutionality of the state’s criminal code now that New Jersey has a Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana law that recognizes the benefits of cannabis.
He said Thursday he looks forward to the state Appellate Division reviewing that motion when he appeals the possession conviction, which he still faces sentencing on.
Oddly enough, it will be the same judge who decides his sentence, but he will still have the ability to appeal, which can possibly lead to another acquittal.