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Freedom Friday & Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 04 Jan 2013



15-day jail sentence over Lockport sign

We kick off 2013 Freedom Fridays today with this video about a man who was sentenced to 15 days in jail for a sign ordinance violation. David Mongielo is a Lockport, NY businessman who was fined hundreds of dollars and sentenced to jail for violating a Lockport sign ordinance that limits the frequency of message changes on signs. He was alleged to be in violation of the ordinance for improperly displaying a message informing the community of an upcoming fundraiser for a man who had lost both his legs in an auto accident.

Not surprisingly, this man was both convicted and sentenced to jail by a judge. A judge has a conflict of interest in making a judgement of guilt or innocence because he or she makes a living by keeping the legal system full, thereby ostensibly justifying his or her “services”. A traditional, common law jury consists of independent, free people who are not beholden to anybody and can render an independent, just verdict.

Fortunately, The Niagra Falls Reporter provides an update in this case:

Update on Lockport Sign Law Protester Who Sought to Help Injured Deputy

The last we had heard from Mongielo, his case was delayed by the court because he chose to represent himself, but had failed to properly inform the court.

The new court date, before Lockport Town Justice Raymond Schilling – who had formerly sentenced Mongielo to jail, but whose conviction was overturned because Schilling had failed to permit Mongielo a jury trial- is set for January 8, 2013.

Mongielo has argued that his sign was in compliance with the local ordinance. He has also argued that non-commercial speech such as the announcement of the fundraiser is protected under the Constitution and cannot be regulated.

The Niagra Falls Reporter wonders if jury nullification may come into play in this case:

The Reporter has been interested in whether the issue of jury nullification, the right of 12 jurors to use common sense in deciding both the facts and fairness of the law, and its application, will come into play in this case. It well lends itself to the question of whether a law should be upheld when it doesn’t make sense or create any sense of justice.

The jury can legally veto the law by finding Mongielo not guilty despite the fact that Lockport officials, who have had a long-standing political feud with Mongielo, seek to have him put in jail because they believe they got him on a technicality.