From the December 2006 Idaho Observer:
How special interests destroyed America by neutering the fourth branch of gov’t
by Richard Geffken
Juries can decide anything they want. Despite the recently-adopted practice of judges instructing juries that they must follow the law, the existing and older right maintains that juries must decide both facts and the law. Never repealed, this power was intended for situations where Thomas Jefferson might beat six red coats near to death in front of 200 witnesses, clearly violating the law, yet a jury of his peers could simply forgive the trespass, or even approve.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote to Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which the government can be held to the principles of its Constitution."
This was in 1789, when "nullification" was the more common term for the authority of a jury to "pardon a defendant after considering both the facts and the law of a case at trial. In this way, the People were intended to serve as the fourth branch of government, being a check and balance against the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The Founders reasoned that, if government became evil, it would discover no jury would convict its opponents, agree to its bad laws or issue verdicts to appease a tyrant.
John Adams, our second president, said jurors "not only have a right, but a duty....to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court."
In England, William Penn’s trial for preaching Quakerism, an illegal religion, is probably the most famous case on the subject. A London jury found Penn "Not Guilty" in 1676 despite overwhelming evidence he was, in fact, a Quaker preacher. The jury refused to change it’s decision even when held for days without food, water, or even toilet facilities. They were then fined, with those refusing to pay the fine imprisoned, for acquitting the notorious criminal William Penn.
The government probably presumes that a jury of modern Americans would submit after being denied access to a television for a few hours.
England’s Highest Court eventually released Penn’s jury, conceding that jurors have the power to consider both law and fact, legislating on the spot, even when rejecting an Act of Parliament, to find verdicts based on their conscience alone.
It may be time to show God and country that some of us are made of stronger stuff—especially since we, in law, already have the right because Penn’s jury already did the suffering for us!
Penn continued with his "criminal" career by founding Pennsylvania.
Accused of presenting true but damaging news about the Royal Governor of New York, the trial of journalist John P. Zenger firmly established the power of jury pardon here in the New World. Alexander Hamilton, who later went on to become the first U.S. treasury secretary, was the young attorney who instructed the jury when the judge refused.
How "special interests" destroyed the jury system
Throughout the 1800s, special interest groups complained about spending money for legislation which juries could simply ignore. Consequently, Courts made decisions which eroded jury nullification in much the same patient and systematic manner that each of the first 10 Amendments (the Bill of Rights) have been essentially "nullified." The process continued until 1895 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that, while juries can veto or nullify any law to "bring in a general verdict," judges need not inform jurors that they have this right. Sparf Hansen. v. U.S., 156 U.S. 51 (1895). Consequently they are not told.
The erosion of America’s Constitutional rights—and the increasing injuries being suffered by her people—is largely due to juries being led to believe they must convict their fellow sufferers for violations of bad laws rather than going into the jury box knowing they have the power to acquit them based upon their own conscience, or, as Thomas Paine might phrase it, their own "common sense."
From trying children as adults to giving 25 years for one joint of marijuana, countless lives have been destroyed simply to please the cruel perverted sadism of prosecutors and judges who conceal the right of nullification from the jury.
Whenever a properly instructed jury would have acquitted someone, these officials—who wish others to consider them "Honorable"—have actually committed cold-blooded murder as some psychotic with an egotistical desire to be the enemy of his own people.
Making all juries aware of their nullification rights offers these advantages:
1. Bad laws are immediately rendered unenforceable.
2. Special interest groups who seek the passage of bad laws to regulate formerly lawful behavior, must reflect upon wasting their money. By 1974, California, all by itself, had more laws than all communist countries combined. For a people who once cherished "freedom," such subjugation is abominable. We now have fewer communist countries, and far more laws than in 1974.
3. Bribery is corruption. That rose remains, by every other name, the true evil involved in lobbying for new laws.
4. Legislators will turn their attention away from lobbyists and their money to see how juries are treating their enactments to measure public opinion about new laws. Right now, public opinion doesn’t matter at all.
5. When communities decide right from wrong after weighing all the facts, a genuine democratic process evolves. This returns both power to the people, and increases respect for the law. Law should reflect what communities genuinely value, not what some corporation wants them to value. Nullification restores authority to where it properly belongs—the community.
6. Judges will no longer believe themselves superior to the people who employ them.
To get involved in restoring the right of nullification, please contact the American Jury Institute (AJI, formerly the Fully Informed Jury Association) at P.O. Box 5570, Helena, MT 59604-5570; www.fija.org. The AJI also offers advice on how to lawfully distribute literature to make jurors aware of their rights and how to survive jury selection (voir dire) without getting struck for cause when called upon for jury duty. ~Courtesy of Innocence Denied
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