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Jury Nullification: An Interview With Travis Winden Ph.D.


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Dr. Travis Winden holds a Doctorate Degree in Comparative Religion and currently makes a living as a Precious Metals Broker. An advocate of jury nullification, he spends his own time educating the public about this relatively unknown topic. Dr. Winden has been involved in politically driven causes for over two decades and is a true fighter of individual freedom and state's rights. Among his many accomplishments he was a Precinct Committeeman and carried three proxies to the floor of The State Convention. Growing up with a rich family history involved in government and politics his father and aunt were actually both mayors of two different California cities. Dr. Winden's mother was a very active political-lobbyist herself. In addition to his mother's political involvement, he also has two other ancestors who were former United States Presidents (Monroe and Cleveland).

Dr.Winden is an Ambassador for Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and an active member of the ASA Orange County Chapter. He has served as the executive director of a medical association for alternative medical doctors and is the former Administrator of The Institute for Anti-Aging Medicine.

MCJ: Thank you Dr. Winden for taking the time to speak with us about a subject we here at Medical Cannabis Journal feel is extremely important for every American to be aware of, I am referring to the issue of jury nullification.

DTW: Thank you for taking the time to interview me today.

MCJ: I have had the opportunity to hear you speak and we have also had conversations on this issue. Can you please explain for our readers who may not be aware, what the term "jury nullification" means?

DTW: The term is really talking about jury nullification of the law, which is the jury's ability to actually determine whether the law is just or not, regardless of the evidence in a particular case when someone has broken the law, if the jury feels that the law itself is un-just, then they have the ability to acquit the defendant who is on trial. So, literally every time the jury is called on, the law itself is on trial.

MCJ: When and why do you feel the judges found it necessary to stop informing jury's of their right's as you said, "every time the jury is impaneled the law in question is on trial."

DTW: There were several court cases particularly in 1972, where The Supreme Court essentially told judges that yes, jury's do have the right to nullify a law, but judges and defense attorneys were no longer able to tell the jury they have that power. I think they were trying to prevent chaos in the law, if you will;

MCJ: How did you get involved with Steele Smith?

DTW: I got to know Steele through (ASA) Americans for Safe Access. I am a member of the Orange County Chapter and I am also an (ASA) Ambassador and that's how I got acquainted with the case. I became very interested in it because the outcome of this case could make a major difference for the entire Medical Marijuana Community, not only in California but also on a national level. It's actually Steele Smith and you can go online to: US v. Steele Smith - First Federal Marijuana Case Allowing Medical Defense to find out the latest updates. This case is one of, if not the most significant medical marijuana cases that has ever been heard at the federal level. Marijuana is classified as a Scheduled I drug which are those drugs The Federal Government has determined (right or wrong) have no medical use. Consequently when you are arguing a case of medical marijuana, because of the schedule one status, no defense could ever be used in a federal court about using an affirmative medical-defense until Steele's case. They pleaded and got permission from the judge to argue an affirmative medical defense, this was a major victory for medical marijuana. That Steele case started back in 2007.

MCJ: Could you expand?

DTW: Yes, if we get a court ruling that he was acquitted on these charges, under an affirmative medical-defense that would begin the dismantling, in my opinion, of having marijuana as a schedule one drug. You would essentially have a federal judge and jury acknowledging that marijuana does indeed have a medical-application. Therefore, I feel it would be the beginning of the end of marijuana being a schedule this way.

MCJ: That will be a wonderful day for medical marijuana patients in the United States and abroad! I know that when the Jury gave their verdict in Ed Rosenthal's case, they later found out that he was not the "drug kingpin" as he was painted out to be, by the prosecution. This upset many members of this jury, finding out that Mr. Rosenthal was a patient and caregiver, legally growing for other patients in the City of Oakland. Do you feel this is a mistake the judges will continue to make or do you feel it may have had enough significance to change the way Medical Marijuana Jury's are better informed on a federal level in the future?

DTW: I hope juries will be better informed. I don't have any expectation of that happening. However, Steele's case could open that up, it could open up an affirmative medical-defense for other cases, if Rosenthal were allowed to argue an affirmative medical case, I believe it would have had an entirely different outcome.

MCJ: I agree, can you give us a good example of jury nullification, how it's been useful in a historical sense?

DTW: Our laws are based on the English Common-Law and the first case we know of goes back to William Penn (the founder of Pennsylvania) in England. He was basically preaching in the street, of course that is not considered part of The Church of England so it was considered a crime, he was acquitted even though he was absolutely guilty of the crime. Four of the juror's said "he may be guilty but the law is wrong." William Penn was acquitted, but the judge in that case actually held the four jurors liable and jailed them. A higher court overturned that by saying, "No, never again can a juror be held liable for their verdict". So that is where it all started and our founding fathers had certainly weighed in on this. From our First Supreme Court Chief Justice, our Founding Fathers and even our second president, John Adams weighed in on this very strongly in fact there is a brilliant quote by John Adams, "It is not only his right, but his duty to find the verdict according to his best understanding, Judgment and conscience though in direct opposition of the Courts". So again, even our second president and our first chief justice said it this way, the Jury has the right to judge the law as well as the fact in controversy. So there is a long and rich history, our founding fathers understood that if the citizens could not get a law changed by the normal channels or reasonable regressive government this is one more mechanism that the citizens can use to stand up and revolt.

MCJ: While we are on the subject of jury nullification in the historical sense, could you elaborate on John Hancock as far as him being prosecuted?

DTW: Because of his active-role in the revolution, John Hancock was being punished by the British Crown by the confiscation of his ships. There were Colonial Jurors that refused to convict him.

MCJ: Great, is there anything that you would like to add as far as how medical cannabis patients or potential jurors can help spread the word about this "withholding" of information in the courts without causing an internal issue within the jury?

DTW: In jury nullification, it really comes down to a court is not going to tell you a judge, prosecutor, not even a defense attorney. Even if they wanted to, they could not tell you, so this is about being an informed citizen and understanding what both your rights and awesome responsibility of becoming a juror really is, as far as what you can and can't do. And as a final analysis, jurors are empowered to do whatever they choose to do. A judge can say that is restricted from the records and cannot be considered in deliberations. However, I am sorry but this is not true, a jury has the right to consider anything they want, and they can render their verdict anyway they choose, so it is very important to realize that every member of a jury has the right to do this. Also. as far as getting the word out a good example is the movie "Six Degrees of Separation", Kevin Bacon is in the movie. When I tell people about jury nullification, I instruct them to tell six people, because if we can get the word out by word of mouth then instruct those six people to tell six people, we will become much better-educated citizens and more equipped to call and sit on a jury if we are ever called to do so.

MCJ: Can you give us an example of how jury nullification has been useful in a more recent time?

DTW: Sure, recently there was an Iraqi War veteran who was on his way to Walter Reed Veterans Hospital in Washington D.C., and his car had a flat tire. He had a gun and a carry permit from his home state. The gun was in his glove box and when he got out, he had decided that being in Washington D.C., being it has one of the highest crime rates in comparison to major cities in the country. Now this is a man who in Iraq was tragically injured, he lost both legs below the knee. So again, he grabbed the gun and placed it in his pocket before changing the tire, someone had seen the gun then called the police and he was subsequently arrested. He was put on trial for having an un-registered firearm, concealed weapon, having ammunition and whole list of other things that are illegal in the city of Washington D.C., in fact there they have the strictest gun laws in the country. When the jury took a look at an iraqi war veteran missing two limbs, and realizing the charges before him, he was technically guilty however the jury acquitted him. So this is a prime case of jury nullification.

Now in the arena of medical marijuana there was a recent case in La Salle County Illinois. Loren J. Swift, was arrested and reportedly had twenty-five pounds of cannabis and fifty pounds of plants. In this particular case the jury's verdict came back not-guilty, even though he had live plants and dry cannabis.

MCJ: How did they come to that verdict, that is wonderful?

DTW: Well, he was is a navy veteran, he smoked medical marijuana to relieve pain and post traumatic stress syndrome. Because of that the jury felt it was a compelling enough reason to leave this veteran alone. He was obviously using it for a reason.

MCJ: Well, I can say we here at Medical Cannabis Journal, feel it would be a wonderful tool for patients who may find themselves in a horrible situation as so many have before. We are looking forward to spreading the word of jury nullification to our readers.

On behalf of MCJ and our readers, I would like to thank you for the work that you do! We look forward to speaking to you again soon.

DTW: Thank you very much for having me here!

***Please see: The Fully Informed Jury Association for more information on this issue. This can easily be found at:Fija.org***

NewsHawk: MedicalNeed: 420 MAGAZINE
Author: Ron S. Niehouse
Source: medicalcannabisjournal.net
Copyright: 2010 Medical Cannabis Journal
Contact: Contact - Medical Cannabis Journal
Website: Jury Nullification: An Interview With Travis Winden Ph.D. - Medical Cannabis Journal


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Great interview. I studied jury nullification in-depth as a means of counteracting unjust laws as a libertarian. It is as important as our bill of rights to insure freedom and fairness. That is why it has to be a jury of peers...
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