Issue #5 – Thursday, June 19, 2014
Paul is a well-known liberty activist who popularized “420” rallies around the state to promote the relegalization of marijuana. Last year, Paul was arrested and charged with selling marijuana and LSD. FBI agents offered him a plea bargain in which he could avoid jail by wearing a wire in the Keene Activist Center, a popular meetup location for Keene-area activists and site of the Free Talk Live studios. Paul didn’t accept the plea bargain; he stood on principle and refused to “narc” on his friends. He was subsequently convicted and served 8 months in county jail.
Two weeks ago, while still on parole from the previous arrest, Paul was arrested for allegedly wielding a monopod on his camera as a “weapon”, although multiple eye-witness reports claim that Paul was merely defending himself from two oncoming aggressive individuals. He has remained jailed since then, on multiple charges, and was therefore unable to attend yesterday’s hearing.
The proceedings were video-recorded by both Peace News Now and FreeKeene. Over a dozen activists from around the state were present, with several reporting on the proceedings via Twitter and Instagram. Members of the group NHJury.com chalked in front of the courthouse prior to the hearing.
Attorney Joshua L. Gordon represented Paul and addressed the Supreme Court justices first. He began by defining what jury nullification is, and what it is not. He stated that it doesn’t nullify law and is not a usurpation of the court system. What it does is allow a jury to refuse to convict a defendant.
Gordon’s basic argument was that, while the defense had given nullification instructions to the jury during Paul’s original trial, the judge then undermined the defense by countermanding those instructions. According to Gordon, the judge should have said “You may convict”, not “you should convict”.
Associate Justice Carol Ann Conboy disagreed with Gordon, stating the law says the defendant may instruct a jury about nullification, but it does not require the judge to do so.
Associate Justice Robert J. Lynn argued that Gordon’s logic would turn every court hearing into a legislative session, debating whether or not the law should exist.
Attorney Nicholas P. Cort represented the State. He began his remarks by asking the Court to disregard his own brief because he didn’t adequately research the case prior to writing it. He claimed that Gordon had no case, because neither the judge nor the defense is required to inform a jury of nullification.
The entire Supreme Court case rests upon HB146, the New Hampshire jury nullification bill which was signed into law by former Governor John Lynch on 6/18/2012. Cort proceeded to relate the history of this bill, and pointed out that as it moved through the New Hampshire legislature, it was modified to remove all references to “jury nullification”. The original version of HB146 had included requirements for the judge, but all of them were stripped out of the final version.
According to Cort, all HB146 does is codify common law already in effect: juries can apply the law to the facts of the case, if the evidence supports it. “There is no right of jury nullification”, he said. “It is an illegal action.” Judge Lynn responded with a quip that Cort was now quibbling with the Magna Carta, which ellicited chuckles from the audience.
The Court will issue its decision on Paul’s case at a later date.