Pre-Trial Jury Nullification? Potential Jurors in Montana Excused After They State That They Would Not Convict On Possession of Small Amount of Marijuana

We often discuss jury nullification in class, but usually such a controversial decision to refuse to convict someone on clear evidence of guilt comes at the end of a trial. Not in Montana this month when potential jurors announced that they would not convict a person of possession of a small amount of marijuana regardless of the evidence. In polling the potential jurors, District Judge Dusty Deschamps found only 5 of 27 were willing to convict someone on a small possession of pot.

Defendant Touray Cornell faced a felony charge after a search of his home found a couple of buds — a 16th of an ounce.

Judge Deschamps decided he could not seat a jury and the prosecutor and defense attorney promptly worked out a plea bargain.

One potential juror asked why the prosecutors were wasting county funds on such a prosecution.

Cornell entered an Alford plea and took the plea worked out during the break in the Missoula County District Court. Judge Deschamps was not so sympathetic, referring to him as “an eight-time loser” and sentenced Cornell to 20 years, with 19 suspended, under Department of Corrections supervision, to run concurrently with his sentence in the theft case.

Most courts expressly ban lawyers from making arguments of jury nullification in court. Here, in what is being called a “mutiny” by the jurors, it was the jury itself that stated its opposition to a conviction based on a small amount of drugs before the start of the trial.

Source: Missoulian

Jonathan Turley

44 thoughts on “Pre-Trial Jury Nullification? Potential Jurors in Montana Excused After They State That They Would Not Convict On Possession of Small Amount of Marijuana”

  1. The jury pool only said they would not convict him on the possession of the 1/16th oz of pot- not the other charge. They could have still heard the case against him on the other charge. It was a case of charging the guy with everything they could, so they included the possession. Because they had voted to make it the lowest priority for law enforcement and because there is medical marijuana in the state, they didn’t think the possession charge was warranted. Here’s a little verse in their honor.

    These folks from Montana,
    Cool as they can be-
    Convict for 2 buds of pot?
    Oh no, not me!
    ‘Cause you know these folks had voted
    down that road of the past,
    Should police be pursuing people,
    For a few buds of “grass”?
    “No” the people decided-
    It makes no sense to me-
    We have far worse crimes left waiting,
    While they’re chasing down some weed.
    These folks had also voted-
    the election a few years back,
    That doctors should have the right,
    To prescribe pot to their patients,
    Whose illness & pain they fight.
    So out there in Montana-
    The largest state in the west,
    These folks known for common sense-
    Decided they know best.
    There’s a lesson to be had here,
    A call to all the rest-
    When it comes to personal privacy-
    They put it to the test.

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