Fully Informed Jury Association

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Jury Nullification | 19 Jan 2013

-Happy Lysander Spooner’s Birthday!


On this day in 1808, Lysander Spooner was born in Athol, Massachusetts.

Spooner began his activist career openly defying Massachusetts courts of the day by setting up practice in Worcester after only three years of study with an attorney. As a non-college graduate, the law required him to do so for five years. He staunchly opposed professional licensing requirements as state-sponsored privileges and anti-competitive practice. The offending requirement was lifted in 1836.

He dedicated much effort throughout his life to adamant opposition to the concept of victimless “crimes” and punishment of them. Spooner expressed this opposition and more in such historical works as Vices Are Not Crimes (differentiating between acts a person takes which harm his or her own person or property and acts through which a person harms another person or another person’s property) and An Essay on Trial by Jury (.pdf).

Aa an active proponent of abolition, Spooner published in 1845 a book titled The Unconstitutionality of Slavery. As part of his abolitionist efforts, Spooner published pamphlets on defenses for escaped slaves including jury nullification. He also offered legal services to fugitives, often at no cost to the defendants.

You can download a .pdf version of An Essay on Trial by Jury from our website for free. If you would like to read more of Spooner’s works, you can pick up a copy of The Lysander Spooner Reader on sale now in our Media Catalog for 25% off our regular price.