Friday, January 17, 2014

What They Don't Know Can't Hurt the State

The NH House Judiciary Committee hears testimony on HB1452, "relative to jury nullification," 1/16/2014. In 2011, HB146 (here's another source for the bill, itself) was passed and signed (following in the wake of 2010's less successful HB1347 and 2007's HB906). It's current law. It "permits" defense attorneys to advise juries of the jury's right -- the characterization of that law -- to nullify. So now, some defense attorneys enlighten them, and some don't. Don't all defendants have a right to a similarly informed jury?

The Executive Branch -- represented by the AG's office -- and the Judicial Branch lobby hard (once again) in opposition, that the jury's nettlesome right should be kept from them because it could hinder convictions. One former defense attorney even argued that, basically, if nullification weren't part of his defense strategy, he wouldn't want the jury to nullify, and so he wanted the option to not inform them. Evidently that would be a "tainted acquittal." Or something. Huh...? It's a secret, you see, that juries must discover for themselves. Just as the Supreme Court decided that if you don't demonstrably know you have a right to remain silent, well, then you don't.

Surprise, surprise... 'Course, in the 6 or 7 years that I've been haunting committee hearings with cameras, I cannot recall the AG's office ever advocating in defense of liberty, sad to say. Let me say that again: I don't believe I've ever been pleased with the AG's position on pending legislation. If anybody can point me to hearing video I have where they exhibited a respect for anything other than unrestrained authority and its unrelenting enforcement, I'd love to have my memory demonstrated faulty. It's the second thing to go, I hear -- although I can't remember the first...

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