Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Jury Nullification Can Veto Prison Profiteering"

Fuly Informed Jury Association writes about for-profit prison corporations lobbying against laws that would relieve prison overcrowding.

FIJA quotes from an article in Republic Report:
In recent months, a broad, cross-ideological coalition has pressed forward to reform mandatory minimum prison sentencing. In some cases mandatory minimum sentencing can lead to a lifetime in jail for nonviolent offenders. But a strange group has appeared on lobby disclosure forms reviewed by Republic Report. Prison labor companies are attempting to influence the bill, and they refuse to reveal what they’re doing and why. 
The group is called the Correctional Vendors Association, an organization that represents companies that use prison labor to produce everything from furniture to clothing goods. CVA has spent $240,000 on lobbying over the past year, and forms show the organization is interested in shaping the outcome of the Justice Safety Valve Act, or S.619, a bill proposed Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) to allow judges to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum in many cases, including drug-related sentences.
Correctional Vendors Association lobbies against a bill that would give them a smaller captive workforce. Congressmen dislike voting against any bill that can be construed as tough on crime. That combination is hard to beat.

FIJA reminds us that we have a way to fight back: jury nullification.
Remember that even a single conviction on just one of many charges—even a seemingly minor one—can trigger excessively harsh penalties due to mandatory minimum sentencing schemes, three strikes laws, 10-20-life rules, sentence enhancements for acquitted conduct, and so on. And harsh penalties mean a ready supply of forced labor who are often paid less than 50 cents [an] hour for work that would command several dollars an hour in the free market. 
Inside the courtroom, of course, we will often be misinstructed by judges that we “must” convict if the prosecution proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt. But this is simply not true. Judges cannot require jurors to deliver a Guilty verdict, and jurors cannot be punished for voting their consciences. Jury nullification is not only your right, but your duty if it is necessary to deliver a just verdict.
Jury nullification can be a powerful tool in the cause of justice and FIJA does a fine job reminding us of that.

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