by Iloilo Jones

Webster_County,_Nebraska_courthouse_courtroom_3 (1)

Sir:

It is impossible for juries to render just and informed verdicts if the full knowledge of their powers of discretion are hidden from them. Jurors have both a duty and a responsibility to ensure that a just verdict is rendered, and they must take into account the facts of the case, any mitigating circumstances, and the merits of the law and its application in each individual case. Richard McNamara is entirely wrong in his statement to the contrary. The power and right of jurors to assess the merits of the law has been established since before our Constitution was written, in cases such as those of William Penn and Peter Zenger. This right has been affirmed continually over the years, and never repealed. Should it be repealed, the people would still retain the right to nullify bad laws as one of our primary protections against oppressive and punitive prosecutions, and in fact then would be compelled to do so.

Jurors, as the representatives of the people and the community, hold no agenda during any trial, and most certainly not the government’s agenda. “Arbitrariness” is practiced constantly on the part of other players in the justice system, and called “discretion” when exercised by police, prosecutors and judges. Let us not forget that the prosecutors, judges and arresting officers, as well as the forensic investigators in most cases, are all a part of and paid by government, with their personal power bases to build and their personal careers to protect through the “productivity” of successful prosecutions that result in convictions. Jurors are far less vested and far less arbitrary.

The first and foremost function of our jurors is to protect private citizens from a tyrannical and intrusive government when expressed through the enforcement of laws that usurp the rights of the people.

If jurors occasionally nullify, how much better that, in their cautious and conscientious deliberations they should do so, than that they should check their personal knowledge, their reasoning minds and their sense of justice at the door, and blindly follow the will of the government prosecutors and judges. Jurors seldom nullify, but when they do, it is generally for good cause, and they are accountable to no one for their decision. The Salem witch trials ended only after 23 juries in a row refused to convict in spite of strong pressure from the prosecutors and judges. Individual jurors act as independent agents of justice, better than do the other participants in this system, who have a stake in protecting and promoting their power positions, while our independent, individual jurors have no stake in the outcome, and no cause to serve but justice.

As we set out to restore our jury system to its fully intended functions, let us remember that jurors are innocent, well-meaning, objective citizens with no personal or power agenda, coming together to do their best to render a verdict that conforms to the community will, and thus to the people’s, as opposed to the government’s, standard of justice.

Sincerely,
Iloilo Marguerite Jones
Fully Informed Jury Association
www.fija.org