Since 2002, Flex Your Rights’ films have taught you and yours how to “flex” your constitutional rights on the road, in your home, and on the streets. (33 million YouTube views later, I think we covered ‘em pretty well!)
Now it’s time to flex our rights in the courtroom — as members of a jury.
If you’re registered to vote, you’ll probably receive a jury summons in the mail at some point in your life. Most of us try to avoid service by chucking the summons in the trash or making excuses to be released. But that’s a huge mistake, because jury duty might be the most important and powerful thing you can do as a citizen to stop abusive government power.
As a juror, you have this power under the Bill of Rights. And if you exercise it, you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer.
This constitutional doctrine is called “jury nullification,” and it guarantees that jurors can never be punished for their verdicts.
Nobody knows more about this topic than Paul Butler. He’s a former federal prosecutor, author, and a Georgetown University law professor. He’s perhaps the most prolific jury nullification advocate of our time, and he’s starring in our new movie!
The story begins with a young woman being interviewed by a reporter. We learn that she did something extraordinary while serving as a juror in a high-profile medical marijuana case.
As the narrative unfolds, our hero flashes back to an inspirational lecture she had with Prof. Butler who guides her through the three thresholds she’ll face as a juror.
Threshold #1: Jury Selection
Watching our hero get on the jury is the first real test. Jury selection itself is intimidating. A judge sitting above you. Lawyers grilling you. And a room full of people watching you. All while under oath. There’s nothing quite like it.
You’ll see how judges, prosecutors and even defense attorneys weed-out jurors. But you’ll learn that it’s possible to answer their questions truthfully and improve your odds of getting picked.
Threshold #2: In the Jury Room
The second threshold for our hero happens in a tiny deliberation room. Twelve jurors. 12 personalities. And they all want you to vote their way. But you’ll stick to your guns and vote your conscience, no matter how much peer pressure they bring to bear.
Threshold #3: The Judge
And then our hero reaches the final threshold. The judge. Once it’s clear that the jury is at an impasse, the judge will try to force a verdict. You might be all alone, but you will stick to your guns and vote your conscience.
The film will be the centerpiece of a permanent social media campaign to empower millions of citizens to save lives and change bad laws. Each and every new “not guilty” verdict sends a powerful message to police, prosecutors, judges and lawmakers that “We the people” will no longer tolerate policies that violate our American values of liberty and justice for all.
We are working to raise $550K to produce a feature-length film. Long story short, this is what we need to pull off a solid low-budget movie with minimum quality levels American audiences are accustom to and film festivals will accept.
We’ve received seed funding from the Drug Policy Alliance and are approaching additional foundations. We’ll also launch a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in the summer of 2014 with a goal of raising $110,000 toward the $550K production budget. Production is scheduled to begin in summer of 2015. We expect to release the completed film by early 2016.
In the coming weeks and months I’ll provide more details. But in the meantime your early support helps aid my writing, research, and outreach to grant-giving foundations.
Speaking of foundation grants, they take lots of time and effort to secure. (And only a precious few fund film.) So every dollar I can raise from you — my most reliable givers — provides more proof that we have a groundswell of support needed to make this project succeed.
Also, many of you are already jury nullification experts who have something to teach me. If you’ve got a short story to share about your own jury experience or you’re a lawyer or defendant with personal insights or ideas, please contact me directly or post a comment to Flex Your Rights’ Facebook page.
I’m excited to hear what you think!
Steve Silverman, Founder & Executive Director