Criminal Justice

Is it dangerous to tell jurors about nullification? New Hampshire bill would make it mandatory

In New York, a jury nullification advocate was arrested for passing out brochures advocating the concept, though the charge was tossed by a federal judge. In New Hampshire, on the other hand, lawmakers are considering a bill that would require criminal court judges to inform jurors that they can acquit if they don’t agree with the law.

The bill is a follow-up to a law already on the books that allows lawyers in New Hampshire to tell jurors about nullification, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

Several lawyers have used the law to argue for acquittals, and in one case the argument apparently succeeded. A jury in September 2012 acquitted a man facing felony charges for growing pot after his lawyer argued a conviction would be unfair because the man intended to use the crop for his own personal and religious use.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Supreme Court is considering the issue of judicial instructions on nullification in a marijuana case. A lawyer for defendant Rich Paul of Keene, N.H., argues that the judge should have been required to instruct jurors they could vote to acquit based on disagreement with the law after Paul’s lawyer urged them to do so.

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