The Wire, the Drug War, and Jury Nullification – Snoop Arrested

David Simon, the creator of The Wire, on the real world arrest of “Snoop” on drug charges.  Here is the relevant political bit:

In an essay published two years ago in Time magazine, the writers of The Wire made the argument that we believe the war on drugs has devolved into a war on the underclass, that in places like West and East Baltimore, where the drug economy is now the only factory still hiring and where the educational system is so crippled that the vast majority of children are trained only for the corners, a legal campaign to imprison our most vulnerable and damaged citizens is little more than amoral. And we said then that if asked to serve on any jury considering a non-violent drug offense, we would move to nullify that jury’s verdict and vote to acquit. Regardless of the defendant, I still believe such a course of action would be just in any case in which drug offenses—absent proof of violent acts—are alleged.

I would think that Snoop might have learned a bit from the fate of her character and others on the show.  Of course, I think the drug war is nuts as policy and inconsistent with a free society.  But drug abuse is nothing to celebrate and, as Simon notes, let’s hope this actress isn’t involved with heroin. 

But what say libertarians on Simon’s view of jury nullification?  Like revolution, something that should be a live option but one utilized only rarely and with serious cause?  Or a mechanism that should be regularly used to undermine bad law foisted upon us by a broken political system?  Or absolutely out of bounds as inconsistent with the rule of law?  Otherwise?

3 thoughts on “The Wire, the Drug War, and Jury Nullification – Snoop Arrested

  1. Mr. President, this is a great question, in particular for philosophers, who’ve not asked much about jury nullification. (Lawyers have, with mixed results, but not to my knowledge philosophers or political theorists.) That’s a lacuna that needs filling. So far as I can see, there is absolutely nothing about the rule of law as an ideal that mitigates against jury nullification. Obviously it will yield results that are imperfectly just, but that’s not the point. The point is whether it will yield results that are imperfectly just more than the criminal justice system without it. And I know of no good reason to suppose that is so.

  2. The problem is if jury nullification is used for some unjust laws and not others, or, even worse, for certain classes of offenders of those laws but not others (i.e. urbanites but not suburbanites, or vice versa).

    1. Of course, that’s a problem with the very laws themselves, and the legal system that enforces them. The issue is comparative imperfection.

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