The puppet jury

I don’t see why they even bother making people show up to pretend they’re a jury anymore. If a juror doesn’t do what the judge wants, they’re thrown out anyhow:

It was supposed to be just another federal drug prosecution. The federal prosecutors introduced evidence that the man on trial was involved in the black market drug trade. The defense attorney said the government agents entrapped his client. And then the twelve citizen-jurors retired to deliberate the outcome of the case.

But then something unusual happened. The jury sent a note to the trial judge with the following query: Since the Constitution needed to be amended in 1919 to authorize federal criminal prosecutions for manufacturing and smuggling alcohol, a juror wanted to know from the judge where “is the constitutional grant of authority to ban mere possession of cocaine today?”

That’s a fair question. It is a point that has been made in Cato’s publications (go here (pdf) and here (pdf)) and a point that has been made by Justice Clarence Thomas, among many others. Federal District Court Judge William Young was startled. He says he has been on the bench for 30 years and has never faced a situation where a juror was challenging the legitimacy of a criminal law. Young tried to assure the jury that the federal drug laws are constitutional because the Supreme Court has interpreted the commerce clause quite expansively. When the jury sent out more notes about a juror that wasn’t going to sign off on an unconstitutional prosecution, Young halted the proceedings to identify the ”problem juror.” Once discovered, that juror was replaced with an alternate–over the objections of defense counsel. Shortly thereafter, the new jury returned with guilty verdicts on several cocaine-related charges.

Notice the pattern here? You will vote until you get it right. You will deliberate until you get it right. At all times, please not to notice that you don’t actually have a choice.