|NULLIFYING NULLIFICATION It was nice to see the Washington Post finally giving some attention to jury nullification, even if after four months of research and interviews with more than 100 jurors, judges, defense lawyers and prosecutors, it still couldn’t get the story right. For example reporter Joan Biskupic stated, “Anyone accused of a crime in this country is entitled to a jury trial.” The Constitution may say so but, in fact, this is simply not the case — and becoming less so as politicians fiddle with legal definitions and sentencing standards in order specifically to reduce the number of persons entitled to a trial. Biskupic also wrote: “The American custom is that jurors decide the facts of the case (whether the person did what he is accused of) and leave it to judges to interpret the law. There is no room, in other words, for jurors to say whether they think the law is a good one, though there have been a few celebrated exceptions — notably the 18th-century acquittal of John Peter Zenger of seditious libel and the 19th-century acquittals for prosecution under the fugitive slave law.” This is a rewriting of history, one of the privileges of a reporter who works for a paper free to do so thanks to the rights of jurors upheld in the Zenger case. — TPR 2/99|
We convicted them on three things, and we really didn’t want to convict them on anything. But we had to, because of the way the judge said the only thing that you can use is what you get under the law… I would have loved to hold up a flag to show them we approved of what they were doing. It was very difficult for us to bring in that conviction.The nullification principle involves the power to say no to the excesses of government, and thus serves as a final defense against tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson put it to Tom Paine in a 1789 letter, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” To get in touch with the fully informed jury movement write: formerly/http://nowscape.com/fija/fija_us.htm, Box 59, Helmville MT 5984, 406-793-5550 “If a juror feels that the statute involved in any criminal offence is unfair, or that it infringes upon the defendant’s natural god-given unalienable or constitutional rights, then it is his duty to affirm that the offending statute is really no law at all and that the violation of it is no crime at all, for no one is bound to obey an unjust law.” — Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone “For more than six hundred years– that is, since Magna Carta, in 1215–there has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law, than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what was the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also their right, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such law.” –Lysander Spooner, The Right of Juries If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by a judge, and contrary to the evidence. — 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, US v Moylan, 1969 Every jury in the land is tampered with and falsely instructed by the judge when it is told that it must accept as the law that which has been given to them, or that they can decide only the facts of the case. — Lord Denham, O’Connell v Rex (1884) The jury has the power to bring in a verdict in the teeth of both the law and the facts. — Justice Holmes, Homing v District of Columbia, 138 (1920) When a jury acquits a defendant even though he or she clearly appears to be guilty, the acquittal conveys significant information about community attitudes and provides a guideline for future prosecutorial discretion…Because of the high acquittal rate in prohibition cases in the 1920s and early 1930s, prohibition laws could not be enforced. The repeal of these laws is traceable to the refusal of juries to convict those accused of alcohol traffic. — Sheflin and Van Dyke, Law and Contemporary Problems, 43, No. 4, 1980 It is not only the juror’s right, but his duty, to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment and conscience, though in direct opposition to the directions of the court.– John Adams THE WIRE’S WRITERS COME OUT FOR FULL JURY RIGHTS
Jurors’ Handbook A Citizens Guide to Jury Duty formerly/http://nowscape.com/fija/fija_us.htm ——————————————————————————– Did you know that you qualify for another, much more powerful vote than the one which you cast on election day? This opportunity comes when you are selected for jury duty, a position of honor for over 700 years. The principle of a Common Law Jury or Trial by the Country was first established on June 15, 1215 at Runnymede, England when King John signed the Magna Carta, or Great Charter of our Liberties. It created the basis for our Constitutional, system of Justice. JURY POWER in the system of checks and balances: In a Constitutional system of justice, such as ours, there is a judicial body with more power than Congress, the President, or even the Supreme Court. Yes, the trial jury protected under our Constitution has more power than all these government officials. This is because it has the final veto power over all “acts of the legislature” that may come to be called “laws”. In fact, the power of jury nullification predates our Constitution. In November of 1734, a printer named John Peter Zenger was arrested for seditious libel against his Majesty’s government. At that time, a law of the Colony of New York forbid any publication without prior government approval. Freedom of the press was not enjoyed by the early colonialists! Zenger, however, defied this censorship and published articles strongly critical of New York colonial rule. When brought to trial in August of 1735, Zenger admitted publishing the offending articles, but argued that the truth of the facts stated justified their publication. The judge instructed the jury that truth is not justification for libel. Rather, truth makes the libel more vicious, for public unrest is more likely to follow true, rather than false claims of bad governance. And since the defendant had admitted to the “fact” of publication, only a question of “law” remained. Then, as now, the judge said the “issue of law” was for the court to determine, and he instructed the jury to find the defendant guilty. It took only ten minutes for the jury to disregard the judge’s instructions on the law and find Zenger NOT GUILTY. That is the power of the jury at work; the power to decide the issues of law under which the defendant is charged, as well as the facts. In our system of checks and balances, the jury is our final check, the people’s last safegard against unjust law and tyranny. A Jury’s Rights, Powers, and Duties: But does the jury’s power to veto bad laws exist under our Constitution? It certainly does! At the time the Constitution was written, the definition of the term “jury” referred to a group of citizens empowered to judge both the law and the evidence in the case before it. Then, in the February term of 1794, the Supreme Court conducted a jury trial in the case of the State of Georgia vs. Brailsford (3 Dall 1). The instructions to the jury in the first jury trial before the Supreme Court of the United States illustrate the true power of the jury. Chief Justice John Jay said: “It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision.” (emphasis added) “…you have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy”. So you see, in an American courtroom there are in a sense twelve judges in attendance, not just one. And they are there with the power to review the “law” as well as the “facts”! Actually, the “judge” is there to conduct the proceedings in an orderly fashion and maintain the safety of all parties involved. As recently as 1972, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that the jury has an ” unreviewable and irreversible power… to acquit in disregard of the instructions on the law given by the trial judge…. (US vs Dougherty, 473 F 2d 1113, 1139 (1972)) Or as this same truth was stated in a earlier decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Maryland: “We recognize, as appellants urge, the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by the judge, and contrary to the evidence. This is a power that must exist as long as we adhere to the general verdict in criminal cases, for the courts cannot search the minds of the jurors to find the basis upon which they judge. If the jury feels that the law under which the defendant is accused, is unjust, or that exigent circumstances justified the actions of the accused, or for any reason which appeals to their logic of passion, the jury has the power to acquit, and the courts must abide by that decision.” (US vs Moylan, 417 F 2d 1002, 1006 (1969)). YOU, as a juror armed with the knowledge of the purpose of a jury trial, and the knowledge of what your Rights, powers, and duties really are, can with your single vote of not guilty nullify or invalidate any law involved in that case. Because a jury’s guilty decision must be unanimous, it takes only one vote to effectively nullify a bad “act of the legislature”. Your one vote can “hang” a jury; and although it won’t be an acquittal, at least the defendant will not be convicted of violating an unjust or unconstitutional law. The government cannot deprive anyone of “Liberty”, without your consent! If you feel the statute involved in any criminal case being tried before you is unfair, or that it infringes upon the defendant’s God-given inalienable or Constitutional rights, you can affirm that the offending statute is really no law at all and that the violation of it is no crime; for no man is bound to obey an unjust command. In other words, if the defendant has disobeyed some man-made criminal statute, and the statute is unjust, the defendant has in substance, committed no crime. Jurors, having ruled then on the justice of the law involved and finding it opposed in whole or in part to their own natural concept of what is basically right, are bound to hold for the acquittal of said defendant. It is your responsibility to insist that your vote of not guilty be respected by all other members of the jury. For you are not there as a fool, merely to agree with the majority, but as a qualified judge in your right to see that justice is done. Regardless of the pressures or abuse that may be applied to you by any or all members of the jury with whom you may in good conscience disagree, you can await the reading of the verdict secure in the knowledge you have voted your conscience and convictions, not those of someone else. So you see, as a juror, you are one of a panel of twelve judges with the responsibility of protecting all innocent Americans from unjust laws. Jurors Must Know Their Rights: You must know your rights! Because, once selected for jury duty, nobody will inform you of your power to judge both law and fact. In fact, the judge’s instructions to the jury may be to the contrary. Another quote from US vs Dougherty (cited earlier): “The fact that there is widespread existence of the jury’s prerogative, and approval of its existence as a necessary counter to case-hardened judges and arbitrary prosecutors, does not establish as an imperative that the jury must be informed by the judge of that power”. Look at that quote again. the court ruled jurors have the right to decide the law, but they don’t have to be told about it. It may sound hypocritical, but the Dougherty decision conforms to an 1895 Supreme Court decision that held the same thing. In Sparf vs US (156 US 51), the court ruled that although juries have the right to ignore a judge’s instructions on the law, they don’t have to be made aware of the right to do so. Is this Supreme Court ruling as unfair as it appears on the surface? It may be, but the logic behind such a decision is plain enough. In our Constitutional Republic (note I didn’t say democracy) the people have granted certain limited powers to government, preserving and retaining their God-given inalienable rights. So, if it is indeed the juror’s right to decide the law, then the citizens should know what their rights are. They need not be told by the courts. After all, the Constitution makes us the masters of the public servants. Should a servant have to tell a master what his rights are? Of course not, it’s our responsibility to know what our rights are! The idea that juries are to judge only the “facts” is absurd and contrary to historical fact and law. Are juries present only as mere pawns to rubber stamp tyrannical acts of the government? We The People wrote the supreme law of the land, the Constitution, to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Who better to decide the fairness of the laws, or whether the laws conform to the Constitution? Our Defense – Jury Power: Sometime in the future, you may be called upon to sit in judgment of a sincere individual being prosecuted (persecuted?) for trying to exercise his or her Rights, or trying to defend the Constitution. If so, remember that in 1804, Samuel Chase, Supreme Court Justice and signer of the Declaration of Independence said: “The jury has the Right to judge both the law and the facts”. And also keep in mind that “either we all hang together, or we most assuredly will all hang separately”. You now understand how the average citizen can help keep in check the power of government and bring to a halt the enforcement of tyrannical laws. Unfortunately, very few people know or understand this power which they as Americans possess to nullify oppressive acts of the legislature. America, the Constitution and your individual rights are under attack! Will you defend them? READ THE CONSTITUTION, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! Remember, if you don’t know what your Rights are, you haven’t got any! APRIL 2001 DC DEATH JURY BEING RIGGED AMENDMENT VI, US CONSTITUTION: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed . . . BILL MILLER WASHINGTON POST: More than 350 potential jurors have been excused from serving on the District’s first death penalty trial in nearly 30 years, including about 175 who said they were so opposed to capital punishment that they could never render a death sentence. Lawyers have spent five weeks in jury selection for the murder trial of Tommy Edelin and five other alleged members of a District drug gang, struggling to find people who can both withstand a lengthy trial and possibly condemn a man to die . . . People have expressed a wide range of views, with about half opposing the death penalty in any instance . . . Although D.C. law has no provision for capital punishment, federal law gives prosecutors the right to pursue it in certain cases. Since Congress passed a revised federal death penalty law in 1987, no capital case has made it to trial in the District. The last capital case took place in 1972 under a federal law that was deemed unconstitutional. The last execution in the District was in 1957. SEPTEMBER 2000 NORMAN TRANSCRIPT: [An Oklahoma] juror who believes in the legalization of marijuana brought a Cleveland County jury’s deliberations to a halt Thursday in a case in which a 49-year-old Norman man was accused of possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. District Judge William Hetherington declared a mistrial in the case against Clayton Milo Fox after jurors reported to him they were “hopelessly deadlocked” at a vote of 11-1 because of one juror’s opinion “on principle” that the law should be changed. “No amount of time will change that opinion,” the jury foreman wrote in a note to the judge after the six men and six women had been deliberating about four hours. “We are hung up at a vote of 11-1.” . . . Hetherington refused to identify publicly which juror was the holdout, although he did meet privately with the jurors for awhile before letting them go home. “I sympathize with the juror’s beliefs,” defense attorney Fred Shaeffer said. “Apparently, this juror just refused to accept the fact that possession of marijuana is a crime, and there are millions of people in the US who share that belief.” Shaeffer said that he found it sad “that an accused can’t get a jury trial of his peers, with people who can express their opinion that marijuana should not be against the law, without it ending in a mistrial.” NORMAN TRANSCRIPT COLORADO SPRINGS INDEPENDENT: Accused of tainting a pool of potential [jurors], Colorado Springs landlord and state Senate candidate Douglas Bruce was dismissed from jury duty after he distributed a stack of leaflets claiming that jurists need only follow their conscience — and not the law — when deciding a case . . . The leaflets were prepared by a group called the Fully Informed Jury Association, whose literature claims juries have “final veto power over all acts of the legislature that may come to be called laws.” . . . District Judge Thomas L. Kennedy said the jury pool was dismissed after a defense lawyer in a first-degree sexual assault trial complained. When Kennedy learned that Bruce was distributing the pamphlets, he asked him to cease. However, he said, Bruce had already handed them out to the entire jury pool. “It wasn’t confrontational at all,” Kennedy said. “[Bruce] has a free speech right to hand out the leaflets, whether we tell him he can or can’t do that. I just asked him not to hand out the leaflets, but it was already over.” The judge then advised the attorneys for both sides of the disruption, and, after the defense lawyer objected, the entire panel was dismissed, causing a two-week delay in the sexual assault trial, and a ripple effect among other scheduled trials, Kennedy said.