Go the F*ck Free: Best-Selling Illustrator Makes Jury Nullification Fun

Posted: June 13th, 2013 | Filed under: civil liberties, cocaine, drugs, history, marijuana, prostitution | 2 Comments »

Jury Independence Illustrated

An American juror has the power to deem a defendant “not guilty” in a criminal trial even when the evidence of guilt is overwhelming. The juror can, in effect, nullify a law believed to be either unjust or unjustly applied. This legal doctrine is known as jury nullification. Drug-war opponents and sex-work activists should familiarize themselves with this aspect of jurisprudence, and thanks to Ricardo Cortés jury nullification is now colorfully accessible.

Cortés is the illustrator of the New York Times bestselling children’s book, Go the F*ck to Sleep (2011).* He also wrote and illustrated the children’s book about marijuana, It’s Just a Plant (2005), and A Secret History of Coffee, Coca & Cola (2012). His illustrated book on jury nullification is called Jury Independence Illustrated (2011) and the ebook can be viewed for free here.

Jury Independence Illustrated Sketches of Drug Czars

Jury nullification has a rich history dating back to before the Revolutionary War. In colonial times it was used to free people prosecuted for criticizing the government. During the 19th century, juries as far south as Georgia would refuse to convict people who aided escaped slaves. During the 20th century, juries used it to free alcohol criminals under prohibition, artists charged under obscenity laws, and homosexuals charged under sodomy laws. (Critics point out that racist juries have also used jury nullification to free persecutors of minorities. A recent case where this may have occurred is here.)

Go the Fuck to Sleep It's Just A Plant Secret History of Coffee, Coca & Cola

Although jury nullification is explicitly authorized in three state constitutions, many jurisdictions bar judges and lawyers from telling jurors about it. California has gone so far as to rule that a juror who openly argues for jury nullification can be discharged. In contrast, the “Live Free or Die” state of New Hampshire made it a state law in 2012 that judges must allow defense attorneys to inform jurors of their authority to nullify. (Read more about California’s ruling here, and New Hampshire’s law here.) Due to jurisdictions like California, the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) advises:

We caution jurors NOT to lobby their fellow jurors obviously toward nullification during deliberations! It has been established in court precedent that judges may remove jurors, even during deliberations, if the judge becomes aware that they are considering jury nullification in coming to a verdict. If a single fully informed juror is removed from the jury because he or she made his or her intentions known by attempting to lobby other jurors, the defendant may be left without anyone in his or her corner during deliberations. It is much better for the defendant if that fully informed juror simply hangs the jury. A hung jury is always better than a conviction, and the prosecutor will have to think twice about whether or not it is even worth it to retry the case. (2)

Prominent advocates of jury nullification for drug cases include the writers of HBO’s Baltimore drama The Wire, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, and the George Washington Law School professor Paul Butler. Their statements can be read herehere, and here respectively.

For more detailed information on how to ethically get seated on a jury in order to nullify the prosecutions of non-violent drug criminals read “A Guide to Surviving as a Juror” by the Texas attorney, Clay Conrad. Conrad is the author of Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine (1999).

FIJA

* Samuel L. Jackson’s reading of the book went viral in 2011. It can be seen here.

Sources

1. Clay Conrad, “A Guide to Surviving as a Juror,” CounterPunch.com, 5 Feb. 2003. LINK
2. “Reminder: Juries Can Nullify Marijuana Charges If They Find Them Unjust,” FIJA.org, 1 Apr. 2013. LINK


Chester Brown Is Awesome

Posted: March 7th, 2013 | Filed under: prostitution, You Will Die | 2 Comments »

Chester Brown, Louis Riel

The great graphic novelist, Chester Brown, was kind enough to write a blurb for my book, You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos:

We think we understand our society’s taboos, I certainly thought I did. But reading Robert Arthur’s fascinating, powerful book showed me how little I knew about the subject. You Will Die challenged me in the way that really good books do.

He also gave me a copy of his celebrated biography of the Canadian revolutionary, Louis Riel, with a signed drawing on its title page (pictured above). As the kids used to say back in the 1940s, it blew my wig.

Brown’s latest best-selling graphic novel, Paying For It (2011), details his life as a patron of sex workers. His intimate description of the practice is a welcome rejoinder to the media’s portrayal of all johns as callous misogynists.

Chester Brown, Paying For It


Ten Ways Social Taboos About Sex, Drugs and Death Scare Us from Learning the Truth

Posted: December 29th, 2012 | Filed under: drugs, heroin, LSD, marijuana, opiates, prostitution, You Will Die | 1 Comment »

AlterNet

In coordination with the January 1st release of the Feral House version of You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos, AlterNet published my article, “Ten Ways Social Taboos About Sex, Drugs and Death Scare Us from Learning the Truth.”

The ten harmful misconceptions caused by taboos covered in the article are:

1. Taboo: Drugs—Misconception: Jesus was against drug use.
2. Taboo: Sex—Misconception: Few women choose to be sex workers.
3. Taboo: Drugs—Misconception: Drugs do not aid creativity.
4. Taboo: Excrement—Misconception: We go to the bathroom properly.
5. Taboo: Drugs—Misconception: Illicit drugs are exceptionally deadly.
6. Taboo: Sex—Misconception: Jesus was against non-marital sex.
7. Taboo: Nasal Mucus—Misconception: Nose-picking is bizarre.
8. Taboo: Sex—Misconception: Homosexuality is a choice.
9. Taboo: Drugs—Misconception: Drug dealers cause drug use.
10. Taboo: Death—Misconception: Modern medicine can save us.

Thanks to Kristen Gwynne (@kristengwynne) at AlterNet for running this unconventional piece.