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Jury Rights Day - whiteA History

On September 5, we celebrate Jury Rights Day.  On this day in 1670, Quaker William Penn of London was arrested, pled not guilty, and subsequently argued against England’s Conventicle Acts, which outlawed the practice of religions other than the Church of England.

The judge instructed the jurors to find Penn guilty. The jurors’ refusal to enforce a bad law led to the court jailing and withholding food and water from the jurors.

Some of the jurors appealed their fines and imprisonment.  The higher court confirmed the right of the jurors to base their verdict on their best judgment and conscience.  Even though there was a law against freedom of religion, the high court held that juries could not be required to enforce any law they thought was wrong.

This higher court ruling established that jurors cannot be punished for their verdict.  It also set a foundation for our rights of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.

This ruling established protection for the jury, and firmly established the right of the jurors to refuse to accept bad government laws.  This refusal of bad laws is called jury nullification or jury veto.  Through jury nullification, people can control their government by refusing to allow bad laws to be enforced.

These underlying common law concepts firmly establish the fact that Jurors cannot be punished for their verdict. As well, jurors are not required to give a reason for the verdict they render. The fundamental right of Jurors to render their verdict based on conscience is basic to the preservation of Justice, in a free society.

William Penn later came to Colonial America and founded Pennsylvania.  Jurors continue to have the authority to nullify bad laws.  This authority is our peaceful protection to stop corrupt government servants from violating our rights.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the history of Jury Rights Day.

What you can do

We encourage everyone to do one or more of the following simple things to celebrate Jury Rights Day:
-Gather a group of friends and hand out some brochures (order here or print your own).
-Call in to or be a guest on talk radio shows.
-Write letters to the editor (download boilerplates you can adapt).
-Speak at schools or to civic groups.
-Add a Jury Rights Day graphic to your website and link to FIJA.
-Follow @FIJA_AJI on Twitter and use hashtag #juryrightsday to promote Jury Rights Day before September 5 and to inform people about jurors’ rights on September 5.
-Post a Jury Rights Day status on your Facebook page and link to FIJA.
-Kick off a Challenge for Churches series at your church.
-Get in touch with one of your state contacts to help plan an event for Jury Rights Day or contact us to volunteer as a FIJA contact in your state.
-Borrow a FIJA banner to display in your community.
-Carry a FIJA banner in your local Labor Day parade and distribute literature along the route. This is a great way to get the word out to many people in just one day.

You can also send out Jury Rights Day postcards from out Media Catalog.  (4.25″ X 5.5″, assorted colors, glossy finish)

Front contains Jury Rights Day logo, website, toll-free number, and the following text:
FIJA Activists Inform potential jurors of their traditional, legal authority to refuse to enforce corrupt laws; Inform potential jurors that they cannot be required to check their conscience at the courthouse door; Inform potential jurors that they cannot be punished for their verdict; Inform everyone to protect human rights against government tyranny. That is FIJA’s message.

The back side of each card is blank so you can address and stamp them to mail to people or you can print your local organization’s information on the back to hand out at events. These cards are great for announcing Jury Rights Day events. The date is marked on the cards with no year specified. Since Jury Rights Day is on September 5th each year, if you have cards leftover this year, you can still put them to use next year.

Generally make the news known that jurors can and must vote their conscience!

We encourage you to check with your state contacts for information, or you can contact the FIJA National office for literature, press release boilerplates, proclamation boilerplates which we encourage mayors and governors to sign, and other materials. Please also feel free to e-mail us with a summary of your Jury Rights Day plans if you would like us to help publicize them through our website and social networks. Also, use the state news section of the forums for coordination and announcements!

Finally, we encourage you to get in touch with us after Jury Rights Day to let us report back on your events. Let us know what you do and what happens so we can publish the news in the newsletter and on our website.

Here are a couple of videos showing how others have participated in Jury Rights Day:

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