Criminal Justice

Jurors should acquit when cops and prosecutors treat blacks unfairly, law prof says in op-ed

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Jurors who think police officers or prosecutors have crossed the line in a case should refuse to convict, according to a former prosecutor who is now a Georgetown University law professor.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, law professor Paul Butler says there are two justice systems in the United States. One is for privileged white people, and the other, inferior one is for everyone else.

Butler points to studies that show blacks don’t use or sell drugs more than any other group. Though blacks make up 13 percent of the country’s population, they make up 60 percent of the people imprisoned for drug offenses.

“Confronting the racial crisis in criminal justice, jury nullification gives jurors a special power to send the message that black lives matter,” Butler writes. “If they think that the police are treating African-Americans unfairly—by engaging in racial profiling or using excessive force—they don’t have to convict, even if think the defendant is guilty.

“Similarly, if prosecutors are selectively going after African-Americans for offenses that white people do not get prosecuted for (drug crimes, for example), then jurors should not endorse that discrimination. By voting ‘not guilty,’ jurors let prosecutors know that ‘just us’ justice for black people is no longer acceptable.”

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