More on the TRUTH About Juries and the Constitution!
How an informed jury helps safeguard liberty
By Dr. Gary F. Arnet
In the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they provided the right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers as a method to protect citizens from the power of an over-zealous government. A jury can refuse to convict a defendant who has clearly violated the letter of the law if they feel the law is unjust or unconstitutional, essentially vetoing the effect of the law.
In early America, jurors were told of this right and writings of our founding fathers show this was their intent. John Adams stated in 1771 “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.”
In 1789, future President Thomas Jefferson stated, “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.”
Things changed as time went by. A Supreme Court ruling in 1895 found that judges were not at fault if they failed to remind jurors of this right. After that, judges not only stopped telling jurors they can judge the law, they now falsely tell jurors their only job is to decide if the evidence is sufficient to find the accused guilty. They are told they must do this even if they disagree with the law. Defense attorneys can be charged with contempt of court if they inform jurors that they may acquit if they feel the law is unconstitutional, unjust, or applied unfairly.
If you are called for jury duty, it is an opportunity to protect the rights of the accused and, by doing so, your own rights and freedoms. Most of the time the law will probably be constitutional and, hopefully, applied justly. What can a juror do if it is not?
First of all, understand that nothing in the Constitution or Supreme Court decisions requires a juror to take an oath to follow the law as explained by the judge. As a juror, when you in good conscience believe that the law is wrong or unconstitutional, is being applied unfairly, the accused is being unjustly charged or made “an example of” by the government, you have the right and responsibility to find them not guilty, despite what the judge or your fellow jurors say. Remember, your one not guilty vote is all that it takes to prevent conviction. You will get the credit or blame for the results of the trial and will have to live with your decision.
While historically a legal right, judges and prosecutors today fear an informed jury as a loss of their power. Sometimes, the only way the government can get convictions of bad laws is to tell jurors they are required to uphold the law and to bar them from the jury if they disagree. Judges have even told jurors that they may not consider the U.S. Constitution in their deliberations.
Jurors will routinely be disqualified if they question the law, if they disagree with the law, or if they question the constitutionality of the law. They are also disqualified if they agree with the concept of an informed jury or of jury nullification. Judges who are hostile to jury nullification have even used their power of “contempt of court” to jail jurors, without a trial, if they believe in or discuss jury nullification with other jurors. An informed jury scares the court like nothing else.
To get more information
For more information on jury rights and what you can do, contact the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), an organization started to inform jurors of their powers and rights, at http://www.fija.org or P.O. Box 5570, Helena, MT 59604. Also, inform others about jury rights by talking with your friends or writing letters to local newspapers. The more jurors that are aware of their rights, the better our justice system will be.
In America today, our individual rights and freedoms are under constant attack and it is the duty of all of us to defend them. Read the Constitution and know your rights as a citizen. If called as a juror, don’t immediately look for an excuse to get out of jury duty. Rather, be happy that you can use your right to analyze the case and to vote your conscience to ensure a fair trial. An informed jury is the way we have to stand up to a powerful government.
This is a FABULOUS READ and very easy to understand! PLEASE READ IT ALL and HELP SPREAD THE WORD!