Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Jury refuses to convict in first Berkshire 18 prosecution

Pete at Drug WarRant is already all over this story but I'm going to add my two cents since the Berkshires are my old stomping grounds and we've been following DA Capeless' crusade against teenagers for a while.

I happy to report Capeless' ill-advised prosecution failed and Kyle W. Sawin is free because the jury at his second trial refused to convict him despite evidence that he did sell a tiny amount of marijuana to an undercover officer. The jury believed the defense's contention that Kyle was entrapped by the overly aggressive cop and probably was reluctant to send the young man to jail for years on the basis of a sloppy investigation. The prosecution failed to establish that the first sale even occurred and the conduct of the undercover cop stank of coersion.
Capeless said he was disappointed with the jury's verdict and indicated that he does not intend to alter the policy.

"I felt that the defense was a weak one. These are professional, well-trained, experienced narcotics investigators who would never stoop to engage in entrapment. I feel that today, and I feel that going forward with any of the cases that we have," the district attorney said. "I'm hard-pressed to think about how they can find him not guilty."
He better think a little harder then, because the community, as evidenced by the petition drive started shortly after the arrests, is clearly fed up with nonsenical prosecutions that contribute nothing to the public safety.
[Juror] Nix also criticized authorities for putting what he said was a disproportionate amount of time and money into pursuing the case against the defendant. "I am upset that the government put so many resources into such a trivial case with such meager returns," Nix said. "I think it's an outrage."
Indeed it is, one of many perpetrated every day in the money pit called the war on some drugs. But as Pete points out, this case is proof positive of the power of juries. We have the right to nullify bad law and this jury exercised that right even though they didn't invoke it specifically.

A few more cases like this and perhaps the prosecutors will think twice before bringing these matters forward. In Massachusetts at least, the DA eventually has to answer to the voters in order to keep his job. If Capeless persists in pushing in own agenda against the will of the public, he may find he doesn't have one anymore. Now that would be justice.

An archive of related stories in the Berkshire Eagle on this case is available here.


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