Cultural Revolutions

Blago Nullification

Call it the luck of the Serbs. If deposed Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich had been charged with trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat in the months after September 11, he would have been shipped off to Guantanamo and never heard from again.

But since the economy collapsed in December 2007, Americans have been in a foul mood.  Their government couldn’t protect their jobs, their homes, their families, or the value of their money—while losing two wars against tribesmen armed with AK-47s.

Blago—his inevitable nickname—was charged by the feds with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama.  On August 17, a jury of 12 men and women good and true deadlocked on all but one charge.  The one guilty verdict was for lying to the FBI, for which he could receive five years in a federal gulag.  “They ought to give you a medal for lying to the FBI,” a friend of mine quipped.  (The FBI can lie to you all it wants during an interrogation.)

That was the same cheap rap pinned on Martha Stewart, my favorite celebrity.  (She encourages ladies to be domestic.)  In more just times, lying got you behind bars only when you were under oath.

Juries can try not only the facts of the case but the law itself—an exercise called “jury nullification.”  Juries can do so openly, by rejecting a specific law.  Their finding applies to the...

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