Friday, March 07, 2008

The Wire's War on the Drug War

The writers of perhaps the best show on television, The Wire, have published an opinion piece in Time magazine in which they advocate that jurors vote to acquit any drug case defendant, and state that they will do so:

If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.

Jury nullification is American dissent, as old and as heralded as the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, who was acquitted of seditious libel against the royal governor of New York, and absent a government capable of repairing injustices, it is legitimate protest. If some few episodes of a television entertainment have caused others to reflect on the war zones we have created in our cities and the human beings stranded there, we ask that those people might also consider their conscience. And when the lawyers or the judge or your fellow jurors seek explanation, think for a moment on Bubbles or Bodie or Wallace. And remember that the lives being held in the balance aren't fictional.

I agree with them. (And if you want to know how government and other institutions in the real world actually work--or fail to do so--The Wire offers a good education, perhaps approached only by a completely different kind of show, the British comedy Yes, Minister.)

Hat tip to Tim Lee at Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Blog.

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