What exactly is jury nullification?
Simply put, when a law is unjust, it’s the duty of the citizen juror to acquit the case. It was with this idea that the Founding Fathers gave us the right to trial by jury. President Thomas Jefferson stated, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
The most important vote you will ever have the opportunity to cast won’t be in an election. This opportunity arises when one has the honor to serve on a jury, a duty which extends itself over 700 years. The basis of our modern jury system was enshrined in the Magna Carta on June 15th, 1215, with the principle of Common Law Jury. In effect, this is the basis for our current Constitutional justice system.
In our Constitutional system, there is one body that has more power than Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Supreme Court… that is the jury! Trial by jury under our current United States Constitution has more power than all of these governmental bodies. This is because it has the final veto power over all acts of the legislature that may come to be called laws.
But does the jury’s power to veto bad laws actually exist under our Constitution?
When our Constitution was written, the word “jury” was in reference to citizens given the power to judge both law and evidence placed before it.
This is evidenced in the jury instructions given by Chief Justice John Jay in the first trial jury before the US Supreme Court, State of Georgia v. Brailsford, when he said, “It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision … you have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy”.
His comments illustrated not only the power wielded by juries, but the right that is inherently their own. A jury serves with not only the power to review the facts, but a duty to also judge the law itself.
As recently as 1972, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in US vs Dougherty, 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.”
Once you are chosen for jury duty, no one will inform you of the power you have to judge both law and fact. The judge’s instructions to the jury may likely be to the contrary.
This is explicitly stated in this quote from US vs Dougherty: “The fact that there is widespread existence of the jury’s prerogative, and approval of its existence as a necessary counter to case-hardened judges and arbitrary prosecutors, does not establish as an imperative that the jury must be informed by the judge of that power”.
The court ruled that jurors have the right to decide the law, but they don’t have to be informed about that right. If it truly is the right of the juror to decide the law, then it is the citizen’s duty to be informed of this right.
Armed with the knowledge of this right, it is now time for us to take a stand.
It only takes one jury vote to nullify a illegal act of legislature. That one vote can hang a jury, and the defendant will not be convicted of violating the unjust or unconstitutional law.
When you are selected for jury duty it is your chance to keep the power in the hands of the people and resist the police state. We have the ability to hold our government accountable by not allowing them to deprive anyone of liberty, without our consent.
As a juror, you have the right to not only judge the facts of the case before you, but to also refuse to enforce any bad law that is brought before you. Juries are the last line of defense against the abuse of power by government. Even if a defendant has committed a crime, a jury can legally refuse to convict if they believe the law is unconstitutional, unjust, or being improperly applied.
If a law is unjust, we have a duty to nullify.
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