August 23, 2013
New York --(Ammoland.com)- With Jury Rights Day just around the corner on September 5, it is a good time to reflect upon a Jury’s Duty.
Our Founding Fathers, in all their wisdom, gave us a Constitution with layers of safeguards, so that if we erred, we could correct the error, peaceably – without a shot being fired.
One of these very important layers is Jury Nullification. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were very strong advocates of Jury Nullification.
“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, America’s second President; 1771)
“It would be an absurdity for jurors to be required to accept the judge’s view of the law, against their own opinion, judgment, and conscience.” (John Adams)
“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet devised by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Thomas Paine; 1789)
“The juries [are] our judges of all fact, and of law when they choose it.” (Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval; 1816. ME 15:35)
Even the First Chief Justice of the U.S. John Jay, in 1789, chimed in on this issue with, “The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.”
Lastly, and most succinctly, Alexander Hamilton, in 1804, said that, “Jurors should acquit, even against the judge’s instruction… if exercising their judgment with discretion and honesty, they have a clear conviction the charge of the court is wrong.”
Simply stated, from the time of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John in 1215, and right up to the present, We the People, when in the role as juror, wield immense power over a case’s facts and the laws that are in question. The power of the Juror is greater than that of the courtroom judge, the legislators who wrote the law, or even that of the President of the United States. The axe the Jury wields is NULLIFICATION, and the Jurors do not have to obey the courtroom judge. You can not be intimidated by the courtroom, the judge, or the venue.
If punishments are too harsh, if the laws are flawed, or if a government is running rampant over the populace, the juror’s power to nullify can easily stand in peaceful opposition. Jury nullification has protected our freedom of speech and even helped to overturned prohibition.
(See Niagara Falls Reporter, “JURY NULLIFICATION HAS LONG HISTORY OF RIGHTING WRONG LAWS”, By Frank Parlato (2012), http://goo.gl/fk8BXB )
Few people understand Jury Nullification, as it is not taught in school. Grade school teachers, high school teachers, and even college professors neglect to explain exactly why the jury system is so important to our legal system. They neglect to explain why the jury system is even written into the Bill of Rights. They neglect to talk about the powerful feature of Jury Nullification. They neglect to inform jurors that they are not required to follow the judge’s directions, or even follow the law.
Because of this pervasive ignorance, the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA; FIJA.org) flyer complains, “Too often, jurors actually end up apologizing to the person they’ve convicted – or to the community for acquitting when the evidence clearly established guilt.” MORE