My Life As A Convicted Gun Offender Who Did Nothing Wrong

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

Vice:

At 6 AM, the sky outside my apartment is still purple-black. It’s too early. I stagger out of bed and stand under a scalding jet of water in the shower, trying to remember where I’ve been, where I am, and where I need to be. Oklahoma. Austin. Houston. In less than eight hours I have to climb a stage and tell a roomful of strangers my story. As far as stories go, it’s pretty interesting, I guess. It’s got thrills, heartbreak, what technically counts as crime, and even a little bit of vindication. But telling it wears me out. Living through it was more than enough.

Three years ago this month, thanks mostly to poorly written laws and a vindictive judge, I turned 27 while incarcerated in Mid-State Correctional Facility in Fort Dix, New Jersey.

I got sentenced to seven years in prison for legally owning guns. I had purchased them in Colorado and brought them with me to New Jersey, home to some of the harshest gun laws in the country, where I moved to be closer to my young son. I complied with all of the regulations, but one day the police searched my car and charged me with unlawful possession of a weapon—even though my handguns were locked, unloaded, and in my trunk. The court said it was on me to prove that I wasn’t breaking any laws, which obviously was very difficult. When Reason magazine covered my case, it wrote, “Even the jurors who convicted him seem to have been looking for a reason to acquit him. But the judge gave them little choice.”

[ … ]

Since I’m practically the only person in the room who’s not a lawyer, I realize there’s nothing I can tell them about my case they don’t already know from a legal standpoint. The only real value I can add is to tell them what it feels like to get caught in a patchwork of draconian gun laws. I decide to focus on the consequences I’ve faced as a convicted felon who has broken no laws.

I start with how a family court judge decided I wasn’t a fit parent and couldn’t see my son because of all of the (nonviolent and victimless) charges against me. I go on to explain how my record included so many weapons offenses, all for that one incident …

Did I mention how the judge refused to let the jury to consider the laws in my case? Did I remember to tell them how the jury asked three times what the exemptions to the law were that would have let me walk? Did I mention how I am not allowed to vote, or own firearms, or that my passport was revoked?

Two things bear mentioning here.  First of all, always remember this case.  Never forget it as long as you live.  Do what I do.  I never go to New Jersey or even fly over or drive through New Jersey.  I will not even knowingly spend money that goes to a company in New Jersey.  I hope the state goes bankrupt.  The same thing goes for New York.

Second, this case was perfect for jury nullification.  No judge can put you in prison for deciding that the state didn’t meet their burden of proof.  Jury nullification is within your power as a juror.  Don’t ever let a judge tell you that you MUST decide something or other, or that you CANNOT consider something or other.  And you don’t have to tell them it had to do with jury nullification – you tell them, if it comes up, that the state didn’t meet the burden of proof, end of discussion.  Or better yet, keep your mouth shut.

If you are too stupid to know these things, please don’t ever allow yourself to be put on a jury.


Comments

  1. On October 31, 2017 at 8:00 am, J said:

    “No judge can put you in prison for deciding that the state didn’t meet their burden of proof. Jury nullification is within your power as a juror. Don’t ever let a judge tell you that you MUST decide something or other, or that you CANNOT consider something or other. And you don’t have to tell them it had to do with jury nullification – you tell them, if it comes up, that the state didn’t meet the burden of proof, end of discussion. Or better yet, keep your mouth shut.”

    AMEN!

  2. On October 31, 2017 at 2:26 pm, Jack Crabb said:

    Yup, the black-robed ones and their lawyer brethren are routinely against jury nullification and go so far as to say it is illegal. Fuck them with Denninger’s rusty chainsaw!

  3. On November 6, 2017 at 10:34 am, Flow6 Actual said:

    A lone juror who nullifies generates (under current constitutional interpretation) a hung jury which results in a mistrial, not an acquittal, which allows the state to retry you.

    What is a mystery to me is how when the state fails to meet its burden of proof and it chooses to retry you that it does not run afoul of the 5th amendment’s double jeopardy clause “nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb” It don’t say a hung jury is a mistrial.

    The end result of this is that jury nullification (unless unanimous) doesn’t get the state off your back. They come at you again and again (if they want) until they get the result they want.

    Under a plain reading of the constitution if I am on trial again

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This article is filed under the category(s) Gun Control and was published October 30th, 2017 by Herschel Smith.

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