Jerry E. Smith
Fully Informed, Your Rights as a Juror
By Jerry E. Smith
Let me start this with a quote from -- M. J. "Red" Beckman's book Born Again Republic:
Our founding fathers wrote the Constitution to bind and control government... The[y] knew that government could not be trusted with power to enforce its laws over the people and that the jury could be the protection the people must have to remain free...
"We the people" will let government create criminal and civil statutes but the people did not trust the government with enforcement power. The people reserved enforcement power to themselves and retained for themselves the right to judge [in trial by jury] whether government created law was just and proper. If for any reason at all the people don't like the government-made law, they have the right and duty to nullify the law and refuse to enforce it.
Remember, ...if the vote in the jury room is eleven to one for conviction that one "NO" vote has more power than the eleven "yes" votes to give the government a conviction. ...the juror who uses his one vote on the jury to nullify law has absolute sovereign immunity and that individual juror cannot be impeached or prosecuted for his vote.
Most of the people who live in this nation do not know or understand that the people have the power to nullify law. The government schools have not taught about the vote on the jury. Very few know the government controls the schools so the perception of how our system works is molded and formed the way government dictates.
You do not write the law, but as "Red" Beckman points out, the Constitution allows you, as a juror, to "unwrite" it. One of the rights of an American citizen is the right of serving on a jury. Another is the right of jurors to pass judgment on the law in question in the case before them. This right is one of the most abrogated, one of the least known rights in America today.
You don't have to take my, or Beckman's, word for this:
John Adams, the second President of the United States wrote of a juror: "It is not only his 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." Thomas Jefferson likewise wrote: "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." And, in 1794, in the first jury trial held before the U.S. Supreme Court, John Jay, the first Chief Justice instructed jurors thusly: "It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that the courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision. The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy."
Well, that was two hundred years ago, what about now? you ask. "The law itself is on trial quite as much as the cause which is to be decided," so wrote Harlan F. Stone, 12th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1941. More recently, in 1972, the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the trial jury has an "...unreviewable and irreversible power... to acquit in disregard of the instruction on the law given by the trial judge. The pages of history shine upon instances of the jury's exercise of its prerogative to disregard instructions of the judge; for example, acquittals under the fugitive slave law."
Ira Hansen, Reno radio talk show host, in his guest editorial in the Sparks Tribune (Sparks, Nevada, March 22, 1995) explained: "American history is full of examples --good and bad --of juries exercising this right. Perhaps the best example is the refusal of New England juries to convict people who had clearly violated a federal law --the Fugitive Slave Act. People who assisted slaves in any way in their attempts to escape to freedom were criminals under this law. Yet, brave New Englanders found the law morally repugnant and numerous hung juries, with individual jurors voting their conscience rather than following the law, were the result. Government judges and lawyers, to circumvent this, began demanding that jurors take an oath to uphold the law and judge only the facts of the case --not the law itself. Anyone refusing to so swear was excluded from the jury. The government attempted to pack the juries with people favorable to the prosecution. This circumvention of a constitutional right was largely ignored --men would swear, yet vote their conscience. This veto power against the law still remains today."
That Constitutional right of the jury has not been rescinded in the last 200plus years, only abrogated by an unscrupulous judicial system. The Fully Informed Jury Association, in their pamphlet "True or False," ask: "Why do most judges tell you that you may consider "only the facts" --that you are not to let your conscience, opinion of the law, or the motives of the defendant affect your decision?
"In a trial by jury, the judge's job is to referee the trial and provide neutral legal advice to the jury, beginning with a full and truthful explanation of a juror's rights and responsibilities.
"But judges rarely "fully inform" jurors of their rights, especially their power to judge the law itself and to vote on the verdict according to conscience. Instead, they end up assisting the prosecution by dismissing any prospective juror who will admit to knowing about this right --starting with anyone who also admits having qualms with the law.
"We can only speculate on why: Distrust of the citizen jury? Disrespect for the idea of a government "of, by, and for the people?" Unwillingness to part with power? Ignorance of all the rights and powers that trial jurors necessarily acquire upon assuming the responsibility of judging a case? Actual concern that trial jurors might "misuse" their power if told about it?"
In 1995 I served on a jury and the judge expressly stated that we, the jurors, had to accept the validity of the law and pass judgment only on the guilt or innocence of the defendants. Clearly, that judge was in fact guilty, at that moment, of jury tampering. Try and tell them that! Of course, how does any judge know whether or not you complied with his instructions?
Your "not guilty" vote on a jury can be used to screw the government, get a freedom fighter or a tax protester freed, and make those prosecutors think twice about bringing any other such cases to trial. Monkey wrenching juries can be a lot of fun too! (Or an incredible pain in the ass if you are not the sort who likes getting into unseemly debates with the ill informed.) Once in court, keep your mouth shut about this. If the lawyers or the judge learn that you plan to act as an informed citizen and not as a stooge, they will have you removed. They cannot legally do anything to you (though they may try to illegally prosecute you for jury tampering if you are sufficiently indiscreet). They can, however, replace you with some fool who will be only too happy to rubber stamp for "the bosses." And hey, they even pay you to do it! For more information on restoring Constitutional rights via the jury process, see The Fully Informed Jury Association at: http://www.fija.org/ or call 1 800-TEL-JURY for a message.
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