You The Juror!


An armed thief broke into a man's home. The home-owner shot him in self-defense, injuring the criminal. The thief sued for being crippled and collected even though he had been in the act committing a crime.

Verdicts such as this are often rendered because of the instructions of the judge. It is just one example of the miscarriages of justice which need to be corrected To appeal this verdict would cost thousands of dollar,, and probably take years. Such injustices could be prevented by jurors who are informed of their rights.

THE JURY AND JUSTICE

John Adams
Our second president, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a lawyer, said of the 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 direction of the court." - John Adams. Yale Law Journal, 74 (1964): 173 It is obvious that our founding fathers placed their trust in the people to administer the laws justly. Even today this decision stands. "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 evidence... If the jury feels that the law under which the defendant is accused is unjust, or that the 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." U.S. v Moylan, 4th U.S. Circuit Court Of Appeals, 1969, 417 F 2d at 1006.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE JURY SYSTEM

The concept of common law and trial by jury was originated with the Anglo-Saxons. In 1215, with the signing of the Magna Carta, nobles and freemen of England were accorded trial by a jury of peers.

In 1670, the Church of England was the only legal church in England, and William Penn was arrested for preaching a Quaker sermon. At the conclusion of the trial, the jurors, led by Edward Bushell, would not bring a guilty verdict even though instructed to do so by the court. The jurors were confined for two days without food, water, tobacco, or toilet facilities. The four most stubborn jurors were placed in prison for nine weeks until Bushell filed a writ of habeas corpus, and the Court of Common Pleas ruled that jurors could no longer be punished for their verdicts.

In colonial America a publisher, Peter Zengler, was arrested for printing articles critical of the Royal Governor of New York. The prosecution stated that although the articles were true, they were seditious, and truth had no bearing on the charge. Zengler's attorney, Andrew Hamilton, argued that the jury were the judges. Zengler was acquitted within fifteen minutes.

COMMON SENSE

 The U. S. system of laws was originally based on common law. If someone is charged with a crime then there must be an injured party. However, present day criminal law consists mostly of statute, or written law, passed by various government legislatures and agencies.

We are often told that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but with over 3,000,000 laws on the books no one can possibly be familiar with all laws. Nor could anyone possibly believe all laws are constitutional, or all court decisions correct. Even the Supreme Court has reversed its own decisions.

Last but certainly not least is the wording of laws. For example, please interpret the following government regulation: Federal Tax Code, Section 509 (a): -"For purposes of paragraph (3), an organization described in paragraph (2) shall be deemed to include an organization described in section 501 (c) (4), (5), or (6) which would be described in paragraph (2) if it were an organization described in section 501 (c) (3). " If jurors cannot understand a law then how can they expect a defendant to understand it?

 CONSTITUTIONAL LAWS
 
"I consider trial by jury as The only anchor yet devised by man, by which the government can be held to the principles of its constitution." -Jefferson 
In cases involving federal law the jury must decide whether the law is constitutional. Under the Constitution's Article 1, Section 8, Congress is granted the power to make laws only about the following-.

Lay and collect taxes  
Regulate commerce  
Coin money  
Set up post office   
Establish lower courts   
Declare war   
Maintain a navy  
Call forth the militia 
 Borrow money  
 Control immigration  
 Punish counterfeiters  
 Patents and copyrights  
 Punish crimes at sea  
 Raise and support army  
 Regulate the military  
 Make laws for the above
 Amendments 9 and 10 reserve all other rights for the states and the people. "No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no court is bound to enforce it. 16 Am. Jur. 2d, See 177, late 2d, See 256. If Congress establishes an unconstitutional, agency, their laws and regulations are illegal and null and void! In federal trials, the jury must also decide whether the arresting agents were within their jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of federal agents is as follows: "Any lands reserved or acquired for the use of the United States, and under the exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction thereof or any place purchased or otherwise acquired by the United States by consent of the legislature of -the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of a fort, magazine, arsenal, dockyard, or other useful building. U.S. Codes, Title 18, Chapter 1, Section 7.

All other locations are under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff, and arrests made must be with the consent and assistance of the sheriff s department.

Congress and the Presidents have been growing bolder in passing and enforcing patently unconstitutional laws.. Most citizens believe the Supreme Court decides the constitutionality of all such laws - that is not true! It is the right and duty of the people!

 WHO'S TAMPERING?

 The courts are rightfully harsh on the crime of jury tampering, and yet judges are the main culprit of this crime in many trials. For example, when a judge will not permit the defense to enter pertinent evidence in a trial then isn't this a form of jury tampering.

A case in point? A woman's boyfriend was trying to break into her home to get at the woman. He was armed with a chain and finally smashed the window and began climbing in. The woman's father got his daughter's pistol and when the man attacked him with the chain he shot and killed him.

Because the defendant was a previous felon and was not permitted to own a gun, the judge refused to permit the defense attorney to enter a plea of self-defense. This in spite of the fact that the gun was not his own and he was defending his life!.

Isn't it also a form of jury tampering when a judge tells the jury that they must decide the verdict in accordance with his instructions, especially when the instructions of the judge often contain false or misleading information? Or his failure to inform them that they may decide if the law is unjust or misapplied, or that the defendant might have been justified in breaking the law, as in self-defense.

A point to consider: If a jury must follow the instructions of the judge, then of what use is the jury?

 JURY INTIMIDATION

A man's home was raided by the IRS and his possessions were seized. In court he proved the charges were in error. He then filed suit against the agents. He was arrested again on eight counts of obstruction of justice. When the jury could not reach a verdict, the judge ordered them to reconsider and return with a verdict. The air-conditioning didn't work and the bathroom facilities failed. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on five of the charges. Jurors who reversed their vote convicted a man they had believed to be innocent.

Jurors must also be alert for malicious practices by prosecutors anxious for a conviction. A lengthy charge sheet against the defendant may influence jurors to believe that anyone facing so many charges must be guilty. Instead, when jurors find any of the charges to be obviously in error, they should be wary of all others.

 JURY NULLIFICATION

In 1895 the Supreme Court ruled that it was no longer necessary to inform the jurors of their rights, and that jurors did not have the right to judge the law. Did jurors suddenly become less competent? Did judges suddenly become all wise? This is an example of the court exceeding its Constitutional authority.

A jury's decision that a law is unconstitutional or unjust is called "jury nullification." Most judges will state that jurors are not qualified to decide the validity of laws, but only when a law is challenged by a citizen may judges consider its constitutionality. Regardless of an unconstitutional oath to the contrary, the jury's duty must be to dispense justice.

Although a jury can neither create law nor find the defendant guilty of a greater crime, they have the power to render a verdict of innocent, guilty of a lesser crime, or guilty. It is essential to remember that a judge may not punish jurors for their verdict.

Was it the intent of the founding fathers to place such power in the hands of the people? "... and no fact tried by jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court in the United States, than in accordance to the rules of common law. " - U.S. Constitution, Amendment 7.

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 II 13, 1139 (1972)

HOW JURORS SHOULD BE INSTRUCTED

"To reach a verdict which you believe is just, each of you has the right to consider the motives of the defendant, and the extent to which the defendants action have actually caused harm or otherwise violated your sense of right or wrong. If you believe justice requires it, you may judge both the merits of the law under which he has been charged and the wisdom of applying that law to the defendant.

"Accordingly, for each charge against the defendant, even if review of the evidence strictly in terms of the law would indicate a guilty verdict, you have the right to find him not guilty. The court cautions that with the exercise of this right comes full moral responsibility for the verdict you bring in. "

 THE GRAND JURY

Most citizens do not realize that the grand jury is perhaps the most powerful entity in the United States. No one is above the investigative powers of this judicial body. "It is the duty of a grand jury to guard the rights and liberties of the people; it has supervision of the enforcement of law and order,... the preservation and protection of morals and social order and the care of bringing to light for examination, trial, and punishment all violence, outrages, and indecencies. The most valuable function of the grand jury is to stand between the prosecutor and the accused., " (emphasis added) - 38 Am Jur 2d See 26

" ... grand juries may summon witnesses by process and compel testimony and the production of evidence generally, Operating in secret, under the direction but not control of a prosecutor, unbound by a number of evidentiary and constitutional restrictions, may examine witnesses in the absence of their counsel and without informing them of the object of the investigation of the place of the Witnesses in it... " (emphasis added) The Constitution of the U.S.; Analysis and Interpretation - 1973 Edition

Anyone selected for such duty should read the section in Blackstone's Commentariesconcerning the duties and responsibilities of the grand jury. This should be available at any law library. Call your county courthouse information to find the location of the law library.

If you are called for jury duty, you will be questioned by the lawyers and perhaps by the judge to determine if you are suitable as a juror for the case to be heard. This is known as voir dire. During this questioning you are not required to volunteer the information that you are an "informed juror," but under no circumstances are you to deny that fact if questioned by the judge or the lawyers - that is perjury and is a felony!
 
 


Hypertexted from the Original Publication by:
Citizens for Better Government, Gainesville, Fla.
Last Modified: July 26, 2000


See FIJA (Fully Informed Jury Association)


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