Justice Crime and Ethics
You somehow got by the jury selection process and are on a jury. You are glad you did get on as you want to have a say in the case being tried. Along with eleven of your fellow citizens you are hearing a case involving a 20 year old female who is accused of possessing marijuana. She was arrested by an undercover policeman and the facts of the case persuade you that indeed the woman is “legally” guilty. In your mind she did indeed violate the state statute and possessed the marijuana with the intent to sell – elevating the offense to a felony. If convicted she could be imprisoned for over a year. The defense offered a case based on medical necessity (best the defense could come up with).
During the trial you learned this. The female is a single mother with two small children dependent on her. She holds a part-time job at a local fast food and makes $10 an hour. She is also taking classes in Justice with the intention of making her career in some aspect of the criminal justice system – most likely juvenile justice. She has maintained an A average thru the junior year. You also learn that her reason for selling was to simply “make ends meet”. And lastly you discover she is head of a volunteer group which is trying to get marijuana legalized and you even remember seeing her collecting signatures for a petition to present to the legislature.
On top of all this, you do not agree with the laws about marijuana. You have come to think that such mala prohibita laws simply should be eliminated. Although you have not always felt that marijuana should be any more illegal than alcohol, lately you have become very convinced that to deny people what seems to an obvious source of enjoyment is just not right. You have your limits about legalization but for marijuana you just don’t feel people should be held criminal any more than selling or buying beer.
Ok, now the problem. The prosecutor has presented a strong case. The woman did the actus reus, there is a written law against that behavior, her behavior was intentional, there is no adequate legal defense presented. Legally therefore a crime was committed and the accused did it. But, you have two choices under consideration:
1. Vote “guilty” because it is the right thing to do.
2. Vote “not guilty” because it is the right thing to do.
The basis of your vote is your own decision. Why you vote the way you do is only your business. No one need ever know why you voted the way you did. You will never have to disclose to anyone what your vote was nor why you voted the way you did – this is true for any juror in any case.
How will you vote and why? (What would Kant do? What would Bentham do?)
There are numerous web sites which can give you information and views on the issue under discussion. You may want to search “jury rights” as a beginning.