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Man Beats Pot Charges With Unusual Strategy: Admit Guilt

Javonnie McCoy puts himself at mercy of jury, and they side with him over the law
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2018 6:00 PM CDT
Javonnie McCoy beat his marijuana charges.   (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

(Newser) – It's illegal to grow marijuana in Georgia, meaning things didn't look good for Javonnie McCoy when police busted him with nearly a pound of home-grown pot in his residence. Things surely looked worse for him when he got in front of a jury in Dublin, Georgia, and flat-out admitted that the pot was his and, yes, he did grow it. The jury's decision was seemingly a no-brainer because the law is crystal clear—and yet jurors found him not guilty last week. As Bill Torpy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains, it may have been because of an unusual legal strategy used by McCoy's attorney called jury nullification. Essentially, attorney Catherine Bernard told the panel that a jury has the power to "nullify a law it disagrees with—at least as it pertains to the specific case under consideration," per a post at FitsNews.

In this case, she argued that it made no sense to send an otherwise law-abiding citizen to prison over some pot plants. As Marijuana Moment notes, the judge would have had no choice but to impose a mandatory one-year sentence if a guilty verdict had come back. McCoy had told the court that he was beaten into a coma in 2003 and that marijuana is about the only thing that helps with the lingering pain and trauma. "The jury appreciated his honesty throughout the case ... and recognized that a good, hard working man living a quiet life and not bothering anyone didn't deserve a felony conviction for his actions," writes Bernard in a Facebook post. For the record, she dislikes the term jury nullification. "It's simply part of being a jury," she says. "The jury judges the law and the facts." McCoy tells Torpy it helped that the jury was made up of working-class people like himself. "They saw I wasn't bothering nobody." (Read more marijuana stories.)

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