Black, transgender activist Monica Jones was arrested in May of 2013 for allegedly “manifesting prostitution” even though she was not engaged in any form of prostitution. The code in Phoenix, Arizona allows an individual to be arrested and prosecuted for activity that FIJA’s jurors educators and many other activists take part in regularly, such as engaging multiple people in conversation on the public sidewalk, waving at cars to communicate with them, or inquiring whether an individual is a police officer. Built into the law is the assumption that such behaviors are signs that someone intends to engage in prostitution—something we all know is ridiculous.

This past spring, I engaged in just this sort of activity in downtown Phoenix, handing out FIJA brochures and engaging people in conversation near the Sandra Day O’Connor United States Courthouse, the Maricopa County Superior Courthouse, and the Phoenix Municipal Courthouse. While I did see one person double back to report me inside the federal courthouse when she received on of our brochures, nobody arrested me for anything during this full morning canvassing downtown Phoenix with juror education materials.

Ms. Jones, however, became a target. She is a vocal opponent of Project ROSE, a prominent anti-prostitution program that is a partnership between government and a private Catholic organization giving women ensnared in the legal system essentially the choice between church or imprisonment. She was arrested, prosecuted, denied her right to trial by jury, convicted by a judge, and eventually had her conviction overturned, in part due to the denial of her right to trial by jury.

There, but for the grace of prejudice and social stigma, go I?

That’s not justice.

FIJA Summer Fellow Nathan Goodman has recently written on the topic of Queer Liberation and Jury Nullification, discussing in detail the protective role of the jury, especially when jurors are fully informed of their right to conscientiously acquit through jury nullification, as it relates to our LGBTQ neighbors who are particularly vulnerable to abuse in the legal system. Now we want to hear from you!

Saturday, 18 July at 1:00 pm Pacific/4:00 pm Eastern, FIJA and Outright Libertarians host a free, online discussion group entitled Queering the Jury: Taking Back Decriminalization. Our discussion will use Adrien Leavitt’s paper Queering Jury Nullification: Using Jury Nullification as a Tool to Fight Against the Criminalization of Queer and Transgender People as a starting point. For productive discussion, all attendees need to read the paper ahead of time. It is available for free download by clicking here.

To keep the discussion manageable, we are limiting each session to 10 participants, and we still have room. To reserve your place in this session, message Mike Shipley and/or Kirsten Tynan on Facebook or message Kirsten Tynan on Liberty.me to commit to participating. One of us will confirm with you that you are on this list for this session or that you are on the waiting list. We will send a link to the room to all confirmed participants and will keep additional names on a waiting list to fill cancelations in this session or to add to a future session.

To participate in this workshop via our virtual room on Rabb.it, you will need to be using a web browser at a desktop or laptop PC or Mac with a mic. At this time, Rabbit does not work on cell phones, but they are working on that, so we hope to add that capability in future sessions. Video is preferred, but not mandatory.

We have a couple of brief videos discussing why we are hosting this discussion group and what the title means. Please check them out and read the Leavitt paper and Nathan Goodman’s article before assuming what the discussion group will be about!

Why is this discussion entitled “Queering the Jury”?

 

Why do we need LGBTQ voices and their allies on juries?