Prosecutors in the case of alleged Silk Road mastermind Ross William Ulbricht have reportedly filed a motion to prevent the defendant from expressing any political views.
They are concerned that a perceived digression into the fairness of drug laws and the government’s jurisdiction will arouse juror sympathy for Ulbricht’s cause. Even if convinced that he is guilty as charged, the jury may nevertheless be tempted to absolve him if they become convinced that the applicable laws are unjust.
The phenomenon, termed as ‘jury nullification’, has occasionally played a role in the US for inducing changes to laws. Former federal prosecutor Paul Butler wrote in the New York Times:
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“If you exercise [this power as a juror], you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer.”
US attorney Preet Bharara believes that Ulbricht’s defense team wants to raise “views concerning the propriety of U.S. or international drug laws or the propriety of government regulation of individual conduct or commerce on the Internet.”
Lyn Ulbricht, Ross’ mother and staunch supporter throughout the ordeal, said on the motion:
“The government obviously doesn’t want this trial to become about Internet freedom, the drug war, or liberty. But these crucial issues are on trial along with Ross.”