Do you feel powerless to stop the encroachment of our civil rights? Are you outraged at laws that get rammed through to criminalize anything that doesn’t support big government power? Do you want to take back your life and our Bill of Rights, but just don’t know what to do? Well, here’s an idea.
Jury duty? Yes, jury duty. If you are called, don’t complain or try to get out of it. Use that opportunity to effect change where it matters most – right in your own community.
I learned with amazement about jury nullification a few years ago. They sure don’t teach it in public schools, and you won’t hear about it from a judge when he’s charging the jury. You won’t even see it on TV. But it’s the truth about our jury system, and I encourage you to learn just what it means.
The following quiz is taken directly from the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) website. See if you’ve believed any government lies.
THE JURY QUIZ
TRUE OR FALSE?
1. The primary purpose of the jury is to prevent oppression by the government.
2. The jury is an independent arm of government.
3. The defendant is innocent of any criminal charge until proven guilty by the government.
4. The judge can require the jury to find the defendant guilty.
5. The jury can find the defendant not guilty, even if the defendant broke the law.
6. If the jury finds a defendant not guilty when he is clearly guilty, the judge can punish the jurors.
7. The judge decides all questions of law.
8. The jury is not required to reach a verdict.
9. The jurors can vote according to their consciences.
10. The jury must take the law as the Court gives it, whether they believe the law is right or wrong.
11. The jury can find the defendant not guilty, because they believe the law is unjust.
12. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
ANSWERS & EXPLANATIONS
1. TRUE: The criminal trial jury was created by the constitutions of the Federal and State governments to be a guardian of the individual’s rights.
Its purpose is to prevent oppression by the Government.. A right to jury trial is granted to criminal defendants in order to prevent oppression by the Government. – Justice Byron White, U.S. Supreme Court Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 US 145, 155 (1968)
The purpose of a jury is to guard against the exercise of arbitrary power….– Justice Byron White, U.S. Supreme Court Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 US 522, 530 (1975)
2. TRUE: The Constitution divided the government into three branches –the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial – in order to prevent an unhealthy concentration of government’s powers. And it created the Jury – the Fourth Branch of Government – in order to hold the first three branches in check. In order to fulfill its purpose, the Jury must be independent of the other branches of government.
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.– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Paine, 1789
3. TRUE: Under our system of government, it is a sacred principle of criminal law that the government has the burden of proving every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt and that the defendant has no burden to prove his innocence. The government makes the criminal accusation and must prove its accusation to the satisfaction of the jury.
4. FALSE: Not legally! The judge has no authority at all to compel the jury to find a defendant guilty. The jury is absolutely independent in this function.
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…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 or passion, the jury has the power to acquit, and the courts must abide by that decision. – 4th Circuit Court of Appeals United States v. Moylan 417 F.2d 1006 (1969)
5. TRUE: The jury can find the defendant not guilty, regardless of what the law says, and regardless of the facts. The jury has the power to find the defendant not guilty for any reason which appeals to them. This is usually called “jury nullification” of the law. In short, the jury has a veto power over bad law and bad judges.
The jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both law and fact. – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Horning v. Dist. of Columbia 249 U.S. 596 (1920)
In criminal cases, a jury is entitled to acquit the defendant because it has no sympathy for the government’s position. – U.S. v. Wilson 629 F.2d 439, 443 (1980)
6. FALSE: No one has any authority to punish a juror because of his vote. Period. This issue was resolved in 1670 in London in the case of Edward Bushell – one of the jurors in William Penn’s trial.
But juries are not bound by what seems inescapable logic to judges. – Justice Robert H. Jackson Morisette v. United States, 342 U.S. 246
7. FALSE: The judge has the authority to declare to the jury what he believes the law to be. But the jury has the authority to ignore that advice, to determine for them what the law says, and to judge for themselves the justice of the law.
It is universally conceded that a verdict of acquittal, although rendered against the instructions of the judge, is final, and cannot be set aside; and consequently that the jury have the legal power to decide for themselves the law involved in the general issue of guilty or not guilty. – Justice Gray, U.S. Supreme Court, Dissenting Sparf v. U.S., 156 U.S. 51, 172 (1894)
8. TRUE: A verdict is the guilty or not guilty decision of a jury. All jurors must agree to the verdict. Otherwise, they must report a “hung jury.” That means that the jury was unable to agree upon a verdict. Each juror is free to vote in accordance with his or her conscience and cannot be forced to vote for conviction or acquittal just to reach a verdict. In the event of a hung jury, the government may bring the defendant to trial again in front of another jury.
9. TRUE: The jurors have not only the right, but the obligation to vote according to conscience. If the jurors believe that the law itself is unjust – for any reason – they have the power to do justice by simply voting not guilty. Every juror has a right to leave court with a clear conscience.
…it is the conscience of the jury that must pronounce the prisoner guilty or not guilty. – Lord Chief Justice Mathew Hale 2 Hale PC 312 (1665)
10. FALSE: The court has no authority to dictate the law to the jury. However, many courts will force jurors to swear an oath to accept the law as the Court dictates. Such an oath violates the Constitution. But anyone refusing to take the oath will be excluded from the jury, thereby depriving the defendant of an independent jury. Such an oath is taken under duress. And nothing agreed to or sworn to under duress is binding. It is ironic that the same judge who demands that jurors take such an oath is violating his own oath to uphold the Constitution.
The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy. – Chief Justice John Jay State of Georgia v. Brailsford, 3 DALL. 1,4
The right to trial by jury shall remain inviolate…. In criminal cases, the defendant shall have a public and speedy trial by an impartial jury; and the jury shall be the judges of the law and the facts. – Georgia Constitution Art. I, § I, Par. XI (a)
11. TRUE: To be faithful to their duty, the jurors must vote not guilty, if they think the law is unjust.
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 direction of the court. – John Adams (1771) Yale Law J. 74 (1964): 173
12. FALSE: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” may have made sense centuries ago when the law confined itself to real crimes with real victims. Everyone knew that murder, rape, robbery, arson, and other such crimes were crimes. Today, with government passing thousands of new laws each year, no one can understand all his obligations under the law. If the jury does not believe that the defendant knew of his obligations under the law, it has the power to find the defendant not guilty. Ignorance of the law is an excuse if the jury says it is.
This preposterous doctrine, that “ignorance of the law excuses no one,” is asserted by courts because it is an indispensable one to the maintenance of absolute power in the government. –Lysander Spooner Massachusetts Attorney An Essay on the Trial by Jury, 1852
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So, did you learn anything? If you did, and you know other people who are ignorant of jury nullification, the FIJA website is a gold mine of information, including:
- several printable brochures, one of which includes the quiz above
- a juror’s handbook [pdf]
- advice about handing out FIJA literature around courthouses
- FIJA contacts by state
Help spread the word and maybe justice can prevail … at least in your neck of the woods.