One More Thing You Can Do to End the Violence: Show up to Jury Duty
Adding to Mic’s article on the 15 Things Your City Can Do Right Now, let me elaborate on this point — to stop criminalizing everything. You can contact your local reps to demand changes in policy through Campaign Zero’s online resource http://www.joincampaignzero.org
We must continue to hold people in power accountable, but we know it will take time before change happens.
In the meantime…show up to jury duty.
We have to take our voices into the court system and demand changes there. We must be present in the room and question the ‘fairness’ of our laws.
Last summer, I served in grand jury duty and we indicted a man for selling $16 worth of cocaine to an undercover cop. That’s punishable in court as a felony, and he can be sentenced up to 9 years in jail. SIXTEEN DOLLARS…. I believe we should get drugs off the streets, but is the punishment proportional to the crime? No. And let’s not forget that the “war on drugs” has always been and remains to be a means to target black people. 3 of us voted to not indict, and questioned why undercover cops are assigned to make these purchases, but with a majority vote, we could not keep him from going to trial.
We were told that our job was not to decide “guilty” or “not guilty” — leave that to the regular jury to deal with in trial. But by indicting a person of a felony, by placing him into a courtroom, we are already implying that he might be guilty.
Too often I hear people self-select out of jury duty. Our lives are too busy to step away from and perform our civic duty. It’s an inconvenience to go to jury duty everyday for 2 weeks. It’s a tragedy to grow up without a present father, or to lose a family member from a routine traffic stop.
Please, fellow Americans, be generous with your time and go serve in jury duty. I truly believe that we can make a difference in this space. If we want the police to be held accountable to their actions, we have to make sure our voices are heard in court. If we want to stop criminalizing everything, let’s be in the room to question why these laws are in place. We have the power to do so with jury nullification — providing a verdict of “not guilty” even if we believe the defendant is “guilty” of the crime because we believe the law is immoral or unjustly applied.
In a few months or years, when you receive your jury summons, the rage you’re feeling now may no longer be there. And I hope for your health and well being that it won’t be. But I beg you, please don’t forget, to show up. Until we’ve gotten the policy changes we demand, let’s show up. Show up. Show up. Show up.