THE POWER OF JURY NULLIFICATION
In 1852 in his book Trial By Jury, attorney Lysander
Spooner wrote as follows:
"For more than six hundred years - that is, since Magna Carta, in 1215 - there has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law, than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what was the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also their right, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge of the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such laws."
Among checks on government, trial by jury is the final say. We the people have the final say on the validity of any law. Whatever jury instructions are given by an ignorant or misguided judge, the jury has the final vote. They have the right and the duty to judge both fact and law, and to vote according to their own consciences.
One member of a jury says, "not guilty." That's it. Jury nullification. In this respect the individual jury member has more power than Congress, Supreme Court judges, and the President. Congress can pass a law, the President can sign it, and the Supreme Court can rule it constitutional - but one jury member can nullify the law, at least in a specific case, by voting "not guilty." The jury vote is by far the most important vote in the American political system.
In 1789 Thomas Jefferson wrote:
"But we all know that permanent judges acquire an Esprit de corps; that being known, they are liable to be tempted by bribery; that they are misled by favor, by relationship, by a spirit of party, by a devotion to the executive or legislative power... It is in the power, therefore of the juries... to judge the law as well as the fact."
Jefferson regarded jury nullification as the most important
check on government. In 1789 he also wrote:
"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
In 1794 First Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John Jay said, "The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy."
In Trial by Jury Lysander Spooner also makes the following points:
Trial by jury, as understood by our Founding Fathers, is in my opinion, the single most important aspect of the U.S. Constitution - the supreme law of the land. Our best chance for solving most problems in America is through jury nullification. We need to inform people of their rights and obligations as jury members. We the people have the power and the duty to nullify all the bad laws made by our politicians, lawyers, and bureaucrats.
One of the most famous cases of jury nullification in action was the acquittal of William Penn (who gave his name to Pennsylvania) in 1670 in London, on charges of preaching Quakerism, an "illegal" religion at the time. Four of the twelve jurors voted to acquit and continued to acquit even after being jailed and starved for four days. These four jurors were fined and imprisoned until they paid the fines. One juror, Edward Bushell, refused to pay the fine and brought his case before the Court of Common Pleas. Chief Justice Vaughan held that jurors could not be punished for their verdicts. In the Penn case the jury nullified the unjust law.
Another famous case involving jury nullification was the celebrated Zenger case, which is often held up as the hallmark of freedom of the press in America. In 1735 Peter Zenger criticized the governor of New York in his newspaper. There was a New York statute making it a crime to publish any statement - true or false - criticizing government, laws, or public officials. The crime was called "seditious libel." The jury was instructed to only decide on whether the material in question had been published - the judge was to decide whether the material violated the statute. But Zenger's defense asked the jury to vote according to their consciences. The jury found Zenger not guilty, thus nullifying the bad statute.
Rosa Parks, widely regarded as the "mother of the civil rights movement," through the act of disobeying an unjust statute, set in motion a sequence of events that increased the power of African Americans. We need scores of Rosa Parkses around the country, in tandem with juries informed of their rights and obligations, to acquit those practicing creative disobedience of disastrous unconstitutional statutes. The time has come for We The People to take back America from our corrupt lawmakers and bureaucrats. We can do it through jury nullification. Individual power to the people!
The Bible says, "You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing: when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice." (Exodus 23, verse 2.)