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Jurors Ask About Jury Nullification

Above photo: From FreeKeene

Twenty-eight year old James Cleaveland was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct back in 2014, after a state trooper had instructed him to walk away from an incident that involved a standoff with a man who had a gun. The 4-1/2-hour standoff with the man eventually ended with him allegedly shooting and killing himself. Cleaveland was told by the trooper to back up and to go around the corner of a building while they were dealing with the incident.

Audio recording from the event allegedly demonstrated that Cleaveland had clearly stated that he wasn’t resisting arrest. The trial finally came to an end this week, with a hung jury on one charge and a not guilty verdict on the other. Cleaveland received a hung jury on the disorderly conduct charge; a mistrial was declared. On his resisting arrest charge he was found to be not guilty. Cleaveland says that he’s thankful for having the audio recording in order to support his narrative of the events that took place.

“I think if I didn’t have that [recording] it would be my testimony versus six law enforcement officers. I don’t think I would be successful in beating that charge,.. My take away is, if you can, always try to make a record of what’s going on,” said Cleaveland. He has said that he firmly believes that he was standing his ground in-line with his First Amendment rights as an independent journalist. “My experience is if you don’t stand up for your rights, you’re basically not going to have them,” he said.

Jurors allegedly asked for the definition of jury nullification during the proceedings, this is a legal right which many citizens don’t know is available to them as a juror. If an individual is charged with a crime, even if there is an overwhelming amount of evidence against them, they can still be deemed “not guilty” by way of nullification. Jurors can choose to nullify if they don’t believe that the law is being applied fairly, or if they don’t agree with the law itself; if they see the law to be immoral. This gives power to the juror and it’s a concept which a number of dedicated activists are trying to spread awareness about.

When it comes to filming your interactions with police, it is important to stay safe and to be as efficient as possible. That is why a number of individuals have established new and creative ways for individuals to film and keep a record of their exchanges with law enforcement. One notable app that was created recently which helps individuals to film their interaction with police is the Sidekik app.  The app combines live streaming from any phone to a secure server, as well as to the Sidekik website, and it also initiates a phone call to an attorney or legal representative.

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