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The Right Response #14

Jury Nullification legally Empowers Juries to Ignore Bad Judges and Overturn Corrupt Laws

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Across the world, government laws banning their people's right to protect themselves with firearms are increasingly widely ignored. The enormous outcry against the gun bans proposed by President Obama, Senator Feinstein and the Democrats demonstrates how widely such bad laws are seen as unjust.

But jurors judging such cases are rarely told they are legally empowered to just say NO!

Some US states, such as Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming, are even considering laws making it a state crime for anyone to enforce new federal gun laws. Across the country, sheriffs publicly proclaim their refusal to allow federal agents to enforce such unconstitutional restrictions.

1. How to Eliminate Bad Laws?

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Nowadays, trumped-up criminal charges for non-crimes are VERY easy to make. There's "Three Felonies A Day: How The Feds Target The Innocent Open Page in a new Tab," the book by Harvey Silverglate with a foreword by Professor Alan Dershowitz who seems to be the only honest Democrat around.

Politicians have put so many laws and regulations on the books that Alex Kozinski, a US appeals-court judge, has authored a provocative essay with the title You're (probably) a federal criminal Open Page in a new Tab. People have been jailed for breaking a regulation they've never heard of, so don't upset the arrogant lordlings in power - you could be next!

But when there's a corrupt law, how do you get rid of it? Most politicians like to think both they as well as their often badly thought out ideas which criminalize common behavior are infallible.

Unfortunately, there's no built-in review process to evaluate a law's effectiveness so corrections can be made and ill-considered ideas abandoned. This suggests a dramatic yet very effective solution: give all laws a shelf-life, say from ten to twenty years, so they automatically fall away unless evaluated and renewed...

2. Juries Protect you from Government Tyranny

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Since it makes no sense for a jury just to rubber-stamp a judge's findings, jury nullification was originally introduced in England to deliver justice and to protect their citizens - people like you - from arrogant government officials and oppressive governments.

In 1670, the first case in which a jury nullified a law, the jury members refused to convict two Quaker activists of unlawful assembly, peaceful meeting. The judge was incensed at their refusal to obey his direct orders and sent the whole jury to jail - ordering them to be locked up without food or water! Their imprisonment was adjudged illegal on appeal and the judge forced to accept the jury's verdict.

One of them, William Penn, later came to America, where King Charles III of England ceded him the territory now called Pennsylvania (Penn's wood) to establish a Quaker colony free from oppressive government.

3. Jury Nullification in America

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Jury nullification has a long and proud tradition in America, starting with the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger. Zenger's weekly journal often criticized New York's corrupt Governor Cosby, despite the seditious libel laws prohibiting any criticism of the King or of Cosby as the King's appointed officer no matter how true.

Governor Cosby made various attempts to silence Zenger, such as disbarring his initial lawyers for objecting to the two man court Cosby set up to rig the trial's decision in his favor. Cosby even made an attempt to rig the jury selection, which was rejected as outrageous by his own two hand-picked judges.

The prosecutor contended that Zenger printed "false news." Yet the Chief Justice denied Zenger's lawyer the right to demonstrate that his statements were true, on the grounds that the truth is irrelevant. Fortunately, Hamilton was able to convince the jury that Zenger could not have printed "false news" since his articles were demonstrably true! The jury took little time to find Zenger not guilty and to nullify the seditious libel laws.

4. Jury Nullification Specified in the Bill of Rights

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In Maryland and Indiana, the law explicitly requires judges to inform a jury of its right to judge and nullify the law. Article 23 of the Maryland Bill of Rights states: "In the trial of all criminal cases, the JURY shall be the judge of Law, as well as of fact..."

Although judges are not required to educate jurors, some mendaciously inform the jury that its job is not to judge the law, but only to determine the facts. But since it's not the judge's job to judge the law, who does? If the jury doesn't judge a bad or corrupt law as unjust, who carries out this crucial task?

Former federal prosecutor, law professor Paul Butler explains that juries have both the right and power to use jury nullification to eliminate unjust laws. During prohibition, juries refused to convict for breaking alcohol laws, today judges recuse themselves from marijuana trials.

5. State Constitutions explicitly allow Jury Nullification

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Some state constitutions, such as Georgia and Pennsylvania, specifically affirm that the jury shall be judges of law, as well as fact. In Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court explained in 1879 that:

“The power of the jury to be judge of the law in criminal cases is one of the most valuable securities guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.”

The first Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court in 1789 as well as Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1902 explained that the jury should judge both the law as well as the facts of the matter. But, unfortunately, judges can choose not to inform a jury about their crucial duty. "The law itself is on trial quite as much as the cause which is to be decided," said Harlan F. Stone, Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court in 1941.

Jury Nullification - see www.fija.org Open Page in a new Tab - is a well established constitutional doctrine giving juries the power as well as the responsibility to acquit defenOpen Page in a new Tabdants who do not deserve punishment as well as to veto bad, corrupt, and unjust laws. The jury's responsibility is not to uphold the law, but to deliver justice.

6. The Case for Jury Nullification

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The eminent economist Dr. Dan Mitchell explores the value of jury nullification:

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Jury Nullification is premised on the idea that ordinary citizens, not government officials, should decide whether a person should be punished. As President #2 John Adams put it:

it is each juror’s "duty" to vote based on his or her "own best understanding, judgment and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.”

Article #2.
A jury correctly voted to acquit a Swiss banker who was being prosecuted (and persecuted) by the US government. The jury presumably recognized that it’s not the responsibility of foreign nationals living outside the U.S. to enforce our bad tax law.

It's not that jury nullification is a great thing, it’s only a solution to the real problem of bad laws. But so long as bad laws (or incomprehensible laws) exist and government officials sometimes act dishonorably, we should support juries being the last line of defense for persecuted citizens. Remember, a tough-on-crime policy is only just if laws are just.
Article #3.
Grand juries have their roots in 12th-century England, but in early America took on more of a judicial role — that of a body of citizens standing between the government and a person accused of a crime. The grand jury eventually came to ensure that the government had enough evidence to pursue a criminal case.

What bothered Rick Myers, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, was the many cases of small quantities of drugs charged as Class 4 felonies, as state law dictates. He began making a distinction between what’s actually a “crime” and what’s “breaking the law” because they were seeing possession cases involving drug amounts of less than 1,000th of an ounce!
Article #4 - Would you convict this woman?
A woman in Spain was not very happy when the man who raped her daughter decided to gloat about the crime, so she decided to do something about it...

Food for Thought

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"In any civilized society, it is every citizen’s responsibility to obey just laws. But at the same time,
it is every citizen’s responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., (1929-1968). 1964 Nobel peace prize, assassinated civil rights activist, nonviolent civil disobedience advocate

”We the People are the rightful masters of both Congress
and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to
overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution

- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th president of the USA.

"I was summoned for jury duty some years ago ... the attorney asked me whether I could obey the judge's instructions. I answered, "It all depends upon what those instructions are."

"I explained that if I were on a jury back in the 1850s, and a person was on trial for violating the Fugitive Slave Act by assisting a runaway slave, I would vote for acquittal regardless of the judge's instructions. The reason is that slavery is unjust and any law supporting it is unjust."

- Dr. Walter E. Williams, influential African-American economist, John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University.

The original version of this article was published at ezinearticles.com


** Your Next Step **

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You want your family safe and protected from criminal assault. Learn how to persuade hardened criminals to fear for their safety and leave town. Enjoy the whole story here:
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  • Do the police or the government have any legal duty to protect you [The DC Court of Appeals says No! Open Page in a new Tab]
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