September 9, 2014 – A New Hampshire man facing felony charges for the cultivation of cannabis was declared “not guilty” on Friday because the jury found that punishing him would be unjust.
Doug Darrell, who’s 59-years-old, was arrested in 2009 after a National Guard helicopter found that he was cultivating 15 cannabis plants in his backyard. Despite there being undeniable evidence of the plants being grown, and despite Darrell admitting that the plants were his, the jury found him “not guilty” of all charges, effecting acquitting him of the offenses through jury nullification.
Jury nullification is the act of a jury acquitting someone of a charge by finding them “not guilty”, even if the evidence is clear that the individual did in fact commit the alleged crime. By doing this, jurors can literally ignore a law that they find unjust; for example, nonviolent crimes related to the drug war.
Although most judges prohibit attorneys from educating juries on the legality of jury nullification, at Darrell’s trial jurors were fully informed of this power. As per the recommendation of defense attorney Mark Sisti, Judges James O’Neill read aloud to the jury: “Even if you find that the State has proven each and every element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find the defendant not guilty if you have a conscientious feeling that a not guilty verdict would be a fair result in this case.”
Prior to the trial, Darrell rejected several plea deals, including one that included no jail time, because he felt he was doing nothing wrong (he argued he was using cannabis for religious purposes).
After deliberating for six hours, the jury unanimously declared Darrell not guilty.
Juror Cathleen Convers explained her reasoning in an interview with Free Talk Live, saying; “Mr. Darrell is a peaceful man. He grows for his own personal religious and medicinal use. I knew that my community would be poorer rather than better off had he been convicted.”