“Moonshine trial ends with split verdict,” the headline read.
It caught my attention as I seldom peruse the various political rags and news sites. I consider them complete wastes of time filled with Stalinist (or fascist depending on the source) political drivel, progressive mentality and centrist statism of the worst order. The article was no surprise to me in the mountain South however. Certain traditions won’t die.
I read of the recent case in my home county with a shit-eating grin. The woman defendant in the case was charged with a sundry of drug and alcohol charges after calling 911 to seek help for her husband (who suffers from PTSD) who was threatening to kill himself. Upon arrival on the scene, it was calm, and officers directed their attention to marijuana paraphernalia and what appeared to be illicit, untaxed whiskey.
After the state’s instrument of prosecution built an elaborate narrative of ruthless drug dealers and rumrunners, with logs of customers and sales, and these people being a grave threat to society, their case collapsed. All charges came back not guilty, save one, which we’ll get to momentarily. It appears the drugs on site were used to treat PTSD and traumatic head injuries. (I would be remiss to also point out they found other drugs, including morphine, but these were ‘legal’ with a state granted prescription) The ‘customer log’ was merely a log of money she owed to a couple people who they borrowed from when they were on hard times.
It was a classic case of Jury Nullification. Many of the juror’s and would be juror’s were asked if they thought marijuana should be legal and if they did, could they judge the case based on the current law. So much for that, eh?
One other charge came back with a hung jury. This was the charge related to the possession of what they claim is approximately 20 gallons of illegal alcohol.
The ironic twist to this part of the case was that the defendant claims it was her inheritance from the late Popcorn Sutton, the infamous Smoky Mountain moonshiner. The defendant claimed that the liquor in her possession was legal and the taxes had been paid on it. Let me remind you that the alcohol tax amounts to approximately 40$ per gallon. For comparison, a gallon of gasoline nets the feds approximately 20 cents.
How could this be? Taxes paid on moonshine whiskey? The defendant stated that the local sheriff’s department knew she was in possession of this whiskey since 2008 and has never bothered her about it. She produced receipts that the taxes were paid in court.
To step back a little bit, Popcorn Sutton was arrested in 2008 and allegedly had in storage units, approximately 800 gallons of whiskey. When you are convicted with this type of thing, part of your sentence nearly always includes a fine, which is for the back taxes “owed” to the ATF/Treasury Department. My guess is that the defense is making the argument that the fine had been paid therefore the taxes are paid. Should said liquor not be legal to possess?