Tuned In

Wire Writers: If the Drug Policy Doesn't Fit, You Must Acquit

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In case you came directly to Tuned In and didn’t see the time.com front page today, there’s a provocative op-ed from The Wire’s Ed Burns, Dennis Lehane, George Pelacanos, Richard Price and David Simon, about a major theme of the show–the argument that the war on drugs has been a failure–and what people can do about it. Their suggestion: if you get on a jury for a nonviolent drug offense, vote to acquit:

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.

Considering that the ratings suggest that your co-jurors will never have seen The Wire, they might want to provide a handy jurors’ synopsis card to aid in providing said explanation of all five seasons. But seriously, feel free to use this thread to discuss their suggestion, or to look forward—no spoilers, please–to Sunday’s Wire finale.