Court Support Now by Joe Grumbine

posted Jan 28, 2013, 2:50 AM by The Editor   [ updated Feb 19, 2013, 5:27 AM ]

Westminister Court Support with The Human Solution, Spring 2011
At a time when everybody is distracted by mere survival, it’s hard to imagine you can change the world.

In fact, the easiest and most powerful thing you can do as an activist is show up in court. By just showing up to bear witness, you empower the defendant, you hold the judge accountable, you give the defense attorneys a chance to shine and you knock the prosecutor off his game. All that can add up to the magic words:  “Not guilty.”

Or, “In the interest of justice, case dismissed.”

I know. I’ve seen it happen.

I’ve seen a man’s anguish turn to resolve at the sight of twenty people wearing solidarity ribbons show up at his trial. I saw him take the stand and speak with confidence as he testified on his own behalf. I watched his lawyer stand a little taller.  

I’ve seen a prosecutor clench his jaw repeatedly and drop his head into his hands in frustration. I’ve seen a prosecutor beg the judge to make the ribbons go away. It felt pretty good to watch the judge say they could stay.

I’ve seen people who never met before bond as lifelong friends over cafeteria lunches, or ride-sharing, or straining forward on a hard wooden bench to try to hear what the prosecutor was saying. I’ve seen fellowship and camaraderie develop around trying understand the unfamiliar and intimidating language of the courtroom.

Mascot Buddy by POW Paul Shaw
A Day in the Life of a Court Supporter

Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head…

The court support experience seems unremarkable at a glance. It’s not high drama. It’s just doing a job that needs doing.

It starts with a decision to take action. I set a day aside to do something for the cause. I wake up at 6 o’clock. I get dressed in my Sunday Best and pick up four or five friends. We grab a cup of coffee and we drive. And we drive. In the car we talk about the case. Arriving at court, we begin to spot familiar faces and the welcome sight of the green solidarity ribbons. Walking up the steps, one by one. Standing in the security line, a few more. I know I’m not alone.

Going through security, the bailiff always asks, What’s the ribbon for? I say, I’m here to support medical marijuana patients and defendants in court. It’s always a friendly exchange. Everywhere I go, somebody asks about the ribbon and I get a chance to educate another citizen.

Educating Citizens is Educating the Jury Pool

The jury needs to know how much power they have. A jury has the power to do the right thing. Just one juror has the power to do the right thing. Every juror has the power to vote his or her conscience. The ultimate power is in the hands of the jury. A jury has the right to overturn a law without fear of repercussion.

Court support also serves to remind a jury that they have the power to overturn a law – any law – no matter what the judge tells them about having to follow it. It’s called “jury nullification.” Jury nullification has its roots in fugitive slave laws and occurs when a jury refuses to convict a defendant charged with a crime under a “bad law.”

If enough juries acquit, they can overturn the law itself.

It only takes one juror.

Are you the one?

Court support is spreading across the nation.

If every cannabis case had an overflowing courtroom, prohibition would be over.

Suit up, show up, shut up, turn your cell phone off and... you too can change the world.

Originally published in the Prison Outreach Press, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Fall 2011).  Author Joe Grumbine is the founder of The Human Solution.

Cite this article:

Grumbine, Joe. "Court Support Now." Prison Outreach Press 2.2 (2011): 1,3. Print.