Fully Informed Jury Association

Are you fully informed about jury nullification?

Jury Nullification | 05 Aug 2013

-Jury Nullification Can Help Push Back Against the Prison Industry

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By Tanankyo (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tanankyo (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Prisoners in California are in their third week of mass hunger strikes in opposition to abusive treatment such as torturous solitary confinement for years on end based solely on allegations of gang affiliation, race-based group punishments based on the behavior of a single individual, etc. Nathan Goodman advocates jury nullification as core tactic pushing back against the growing prison industry, noting its growth fueled in part by the forced labor a large prison population can provide corporations.

Prison abolition is a moral imperative and practical

The Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as “Angola,” was converted from a slave plantation to a prison and is still used for forced agricultural labor. Sweatshop conditions exist in prisons across the country.

Companies like Walmart, AT&T and Starbucks all profit from this slave labor. So do war profiteers like BAE, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing.

The racism of slavery persists; 60 percent of prisoners are people of color.

Resist the prison growth industry. Organize against construction of any new prisons, jails and detention centers. Divest from banks that profit off prisons, such as Wells Fargo, and urge others to do the same. Expose prison profiteers like Jane Marquardt and undermine their political influence.

Film cops, finance legal defenses and promote jury nullification, so fewer people are sent to prison.

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Jury Nullification | 03 Aug 2013

-Criminal Courts have Quietly Moved From “May” Convict to “Must” Convict Jury Instructions

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Jury BoxFIJA Advisory Board member Roger Roots, J.D., Ph.D. pens this column about how judges are quietly pulling the veil further over jurors’ right to refuse to convict under unjust or unjustly applied laws. We are often asked how is it that so few people know about jury nullification when it has been part of the United States’ legal system from the beginning and has never been overturned. This is another piece of the puzzle of how jurors’ right to nullify has become jurors’ secret right. Click through for the entire article.

Criminal Courts have Quietly Moved From “May” Convict to “Must” Convict Jury Instructions Over the past 40 Years

In the Dougherty trial, the D.C. Nine tried to get the judge to inform the jury of their inherent nullification powers. The trial judge refused, the jury convicted, and the Defendants appealed to the D.C. Circuit. On the question of whether a judge is under an obligation to fully inform juries about jury nullification, the three judges of the D.C. Circuit split sharply. Chief Judge Bazelon, one of the highest ranking judges in the federal system, issued a brilliant dissenting opinion explaining why the refusal of the trial judge to fully inform the jury constituted outright deception. “On remand the trial judge should grant defendants’ request for a nullification instruction,” wrote Bazelon, or “[a]t the very least “permit defendants to argue the question before the jury.”

Unfortunately, however, Judge Bazelon was outnumbered by Judges Leventhal and Adams, who held that trial judges are under no obligation to inform jurors of their “unreviewable and unreversible power . . . to acquit.” The two-judge majority decided that juries did not need to be explicitly informed because the power of jury nullification is implicit in the overall tone of commonly-given jury instructions.

According to Judge Leventhal (with emphasis added):

The jury knows well enough that its prerogative is not limited to the choices articulated in the formal instructions of the court. . . . Even indicators that would on their face seem too weak to notice — like the fact that the judge tells the jury it must acquit (in case of reasonable doubt) but never tells the jury in so many words that it must convict — are a meaningful part of the jury’s total input. Law is a system, and it is also a language, with secondary meanings that may be unrecorded yet are part of its life.

The problem with Judge leventhal’s 1972 statement is that it is no longer true. During the 1970s, when Dougherty was decided, the common practice was for judges to use the word “must” only when instructing jurors to acquit when prosecutors fail to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In contrast, the word “should” was used when instructing jurors about their obligations when prosecutors prove their cases. But today, many courts have switched to using “must” in both commands.

Thus, a central tenet supporting the opinion of the Dougherty majority—perhaps the lynchpin of the decision—is no longer accurate. I have sat in courtrooms where judges not only tell juries they “must” convict, but where the judges emphasize the word “must” as they say the word. In my experience, judges seem especially prone to emphasize “must” in firearm prosecutions, perhaps out of fear that jurors might flirt with considering the Second Amendment as a basis for jury nullification.

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Jury Nullification & Jury Rights Day | 03 Aug 2013

-Inform Everyone About Jury Nullification On Jury Rights Day 2013

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brightblue_square_438x441It’s that time of year again! Jury Rights Day 2013 is coming up in just over a month on Thursday, 5 September. This annual celebration commemorates the famous case in which William Penn’s jury refused to convict him of violating England’s Conventicle Act by publicly preaching a religion not approved by the government. Learn more about Jury Rights Day here. Because Jury Rights Day falls on what is a work day for many people, we encourage you to celebrate it the weekend before or after if you can’t get out to celebrate it in your community on the 5th of September.

How will YOU help inform your community about the powerful tool of jury nullification that jurors have available to them to protect their communities against malicious prosecutions and unjust laws?

As Jury Rights Day events are planned across the country, we will be listing them on our Jury Rights Day 2013 Events calendar. Click through to find an event in your area.

If you don’t see an event in your area, we invite you to organize one! Check out our Jury Rights Day page for some suggestions. Join our Jury Rights Day 2013 Facebook event to organize with other activists on Facebook. Be sure to let us know ahead of time when, where, and what your event will be by e-mailing us at aji@fija.org so that we can list it and publicize it. Please also take lots of pictures and/or video and send it to us so we can share your hard work with the rest of the world!

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Function of Juries & Sixth Amendment | 02 Aug 2013

-“Kids-for-Cash” Judge Is a Reminder of the Importance of Juries

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Jury BoxThis week the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia denied the request of “Kids-for-Cash” Judge Mark A. Ciavarella to overturn his 28-year sentence for his part in a multi-million dollar scheme whereby he and another judge profited handsomely by funneling kids into a private prison system.

This scheme involved denying juvenile defendants of their basic rights, including denying them legal representation. Instead, kids were left to fend for themselves before the corrupt judge, who quickly dispensed with them into the prison system, sometimes after a hearing lasting only a minute or two. These children’s cases were not heard by a jury, but rather decided and sentenced by one man whose profiteering scheme depended on filling up the private prison system. Not surprisingly, a pattern quickly emerged where he sentenced children harshly for very minor offenses, including mocking a principal on the internet. Hundreds of fraudulent juvenile convictions have since been overturned.

This stark example of judicial corruption is a good reminder of why we have a Constitutional right to trial by jury.

In the courtroom, the judge is not an independent, objective party. A judge’s livelihood depends on keeping the court system full. In this case, we see how judges can profit even further from keeping the private prison system full. Judges have an inherent conflict of interest in the courtroom. Jurors on the other hand, are lucky if they manage to break even from the pittance they receive for each day of service. The few dollars a day they are allotted may not even be enough to cover their parking and lunch that day, and almost certainly will not replace income that they may lose by being away from work. They are there for a very short time, usually just for a single case, and then they move on, without a long-term opportunity to profit from corrupt practices as these “kids-for-cash” judges did.

The Sixth Amendment specifies a right to trial by jury in ALL criminal cases. Denying that right because a defendant is under age, because the offense seems minor, or because the maximum penalty is less than some arbitray amount is not only a clear violation of a supposedly guaranteed Constitutional right, but it opens the door for just this sort of heinous abuse of power against the most vulnerable among us.

Judge to serve 28 years after making $2 million for sending black children to jail

Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, 63, serves as an example of why the private prison industry can do more harm than good. Ciavarella worked alongside owners of private juvenile facilities to ensure that the prison remained occupied. The more prisoners equated to more profits for the owners of the prison.

As a result, Ciavarella would sentence offenders with small offenses to months and, at times, years behind bars. He once sentenced a teen to three months in jail for creating a MySpace page that mocked her school’s assistant principal. Ciavarella also sentenced another teen to 90 days in jail after a simple schoolyard fight.

But after a federal investigation, it was discovered that Ciavarella and his colleague, Judge Michael Conahan, received more than $2.6 million from privately run youth centers owned by PA Child Care.

Pennsylvania Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. Still Set to Serve 28 Years for Selling Kids to Juvenile Corrections

Ciaverella, 61, was convicted of racketeering charges for receiving $1 million in bribes from a constructor of juvenile detention facilities. The judge had violated individual rights for at least 4,000 cases between 2003 and 2008, denying defendants the right to counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

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Function of Juries & Interviews & Jury Nullification | 01 Aug 2013

-Voices with Vision on WPFW Interview on Jury Nullification

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This week Naji Mujahid of Voices with Vision spoke with FIJA’s Kirsten Tynan on Pacifica station WPFW in Washington, D.C. They talked extensively about how jurors can use jury nullification to push back against human rights abuses, including refusing to be complicit in punishing victimless offenses– offenses which are disproportionately used by government to punish people of color.

Voices with Vision; Tuesday, 30 July show (.mp3)- FIJA interview begins a few minutes into the show
Voices with Vision on Facebook
WPFW Pacifica; 89.3 FM in Washington, D.C.

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Function of Juries & Interviews & Jury Nullification | 22 Jul 2013

-Jurors’ Role in Protecting Our Rights with Jury Nullification

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Kirsten Tynan joined guest host David Knight on The Alex Jones Show last week to discuss jurors’ rights and responsibilities in protecting human rights by refusing to enforce unjust or unjustly applied laws. See the video below to watch this segment of the program.

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Function of Juries & Interviews & Jury Nullification | 18 Jul 2013

-FIJA Talks Jury Nullification on Alex Jones Show

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FIJA Logo with URL

Kirsten Tynan will join guest host
David Knight on the Alex Jones Show TODAY:
Thursday, 18 July 2013
at 1:00 pm Central
LISTEN LIVE ONLINE
They may take calls, so listen for the
call-in number if you have a question.

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Jury Nullification | 16 Jul 2013

-Former State Department Lawyer and Cartoonist Speculate on Jury Nullification for Snowden

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Jury BoxJury nullification makes The Atlantic today, with regard to the Edward Snowden case. Conor Friedersdorf shares the comments of both David Pozen, a Columbia Law School professor and former State Department lawyer, and cartoonist Scott Adams in this article.

Would an American Jury Even Convict Edward Snowden?

At Lawfare, David Pozen, a Columbia Law School professor and former State Department lawyer, points out that even if the U.S. government manages to take Edward Snowden into custody, the Obama Administration will find it unpleasant to prosecute him.

“Snowden would no doubt obtain high-powered lawyers,” he writes. “Protesters would ring the courthouse. Journalists would camp out inside. As proceedings dragged on for months, the spotlight would remain on the N.S.A.’s spying and the administration’s pursuit of leakers.” What I found most provocative about the post, however, is the suggestion that the trial’s outcome would be in doubt:

If the case law is on its side, why would the government have reason to worry about prosecuting Snowden? One source of concern is the jury. Snowden says his leaks revealed an unconstitutional and undemocratic system of surveillance. Polls suggest that many Americans agree. Even if the judge instructs the jury to set aside its views on the rightness or wrongness of Snowden’s acts, there is no guarantee it will. Jurors might be tempted to acquit Snowden, not because they believe he is factually innocent but because they believe he was morally justified.

He goes on:

It has happened before — in England. In 1985, Clive Ponting looked destined for prison after leaking Ministry of Defence documents that called into question the official story of the Falklands War. Ponting fessed up to being the source. The jury voted to acquit him nevertheless, and in so doing helped catalyze a movement to liberalize the laws against unauthorized disclosures.

Click through for the entire article including more extensive commentary on the possibility of jury nullification in this case.

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Jury Nullification | 15 Jul 2013

-Anthony Johnson Calls for Jury Nullification in Oregon Medical Marijuana Cases

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Cannabis Training University / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Cannabis Training University / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Anthony Johnson of the National Cannabis Coalition reports that even with the Oregon legislature’s passage of House Bill 3460 allowing compensation to medical marijuana growers and providers for normal and customary costs of doing business, prosecutors in Oregon continue to pursue prosecutions for activities that will soon no longer be legally categorized as crimes. What can be done as prosecutors continue to waste taxpayer dollars? Johnson calls for jury nullification in such cases.

Oregon Prosecutors Still Wasting Resources on Medical Marijuana Providers

Maybe, these prosecutors will come to their senses. Maybe, if they hear from enough of their constituents, they will realize that law enforcement resources are better utilized elsewhere and these medical cannabis providers do not deserve to be prosecuted, let alone serve lengthy prison sentences.

If these cases go to trial, hopefully jury members will know that House Bill 3460 passed, providing the rules and regulations necessary for medical cannabis dispensaries to clearly operate within the law.

These cases scream for “jury nullification” to me. While jurors are often under the assumption that they don’t have the right to “judge” the law, they always have that power, regardless of what the judge or prosecutor may say. American history is filled with jurors who nullified the law, whether to not punish those helping free slaves or those prosecuted during Alcohol Prohibition.

Click through for the entire article.

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 11 Jul 2013

-Ask The Barrister, Jury Nullification

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Jury BoxThe Niagra Falls Reporter answers a juror’s question about jury nullification:

Ask The Barrister, Jury Nullification

Jury nullification occurs when a jury, believing a defendant is guilty, nevertheless acquits or finds the defendant not guilty for reasons outside of the facts of the case.

Usually, because they don’t believe the law is just.

Every American should attempt to educate themselves on this power that we all wield.

Before I get into details, I will briefly answer your actual questions:

What should you do?

You should do what you think is right.

Will you get in trouble for not convicting the man and using jury nullification?

Absolutely not.

However, you could be potentially in trouble for discussing the case with outside sources during deliberations.

But since that is now moot, let’s move on to jury nullification.

Click through for the entire question and answer. This article highlights the importance of being educated about and confident in your rights as a juror BEFORE you get to the courthouse. Once you are deliberating on a jury, while you cannot be punished for your Not Guilt vote, jurors CAN potentially be punished for doing outside research during deliberations.

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Jury Nullification | 06 Jul 2013

-PorcFest X Jury Nullification Panel

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This is a pretty lengthy video, but it is worth watching as it gets into fairly detailed information. Two quick highlights:
1. An audience member makes the insightful point that in every case there are two defendants. Not only is the individual accused of violating the law on trial, but the law itself is on trial in every case.
2. Bob Constantine, in discussing what needs to be impressed upon jurors in order to get a nullification, emphasizes the point that it needs to be made clear to jurors that the jury is not a democracy and that they are not required to come to a unanimous verdict.

Thanks to all the panel members for helping educate the community about jury nullification, and thanks to the audience member who brought FIJA literature to share!

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 05 Jul 2013

-Why Do Prosecutors Try To “Weed Out” Potential Jurors Aware Of Jury Nullification?

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Cannabis Training University / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Cannabis Training University / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Thanks to Killer Bud who delves deeply into the inner workings of the legal system, especially with regard to marijuana cases, and how those invested in criminalization of peaceful activities game the system to try and eliminate fully informed jurors.

Why Do Prosecutors Try To “Weed Out” Potential Jurors Aware Of Jury Nullification?

I believe the reason why prosecutors don’t want a juror to know about jury nullification are because they know that if people were to be aware of this that they would lose. The big bad tiger called government does not like losing. They will intentionally screen out potential jurors who they think will impose jury nullification, or are aware of it. If you contest a cannabis charge, they feel impelled to stack the deck against you to use the jurors to support their weak law.

When it comes down to it, if that’s what they have to do to win, then we are truly winning. More and more folks need to be educated about jury nullification to the point where prosecutors will have no choice but to accept them on jury pools..

In the meantime if you’re selected for jury duty and you support cannabis legalization , Do your duty, be professional, and keep your mouth shut until it is time to deliberate. You don’t have to explain to the other jurors why you think a person is not guilty. You just have to say to yourself “The law is wrong, not them”

Click through to read this extensive article in its entirety.

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Jury Nullification | 05 Jul 2013

-Dilbert Creator Scott Adams Predicts Jury Nullification for Snowden

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Dilbert creator Scott Adams recently expressed his skepticism that any jury could be found who would convict Edward Snowden for alleged legal violations related to disclosing criminal activity by the NSA. Adams, unclear on the legal status of his right to speak his mind openly on the topic of jury nullification, does not officially advocate it, but merely predicts it.

Snowden

I’m wondering how you find a jury that would convict Snowden. On the first day of the trial his lawyer will explain to all twelve jurors how the government spied on them personally. Every potential juror is also a victim. Good luck getting the victims to side with the perpetrator, which in this case is the government.

I think there’s some sort of law that says I can’t make a public statement in favor of jury nullification. Jury nullification is when jurors agree that the accused broke the law, but they feel the law itself is wrong, or that a conviction would be overkill, so they find the accused innocent. I predict that will happen. I don’t recommend jury nullification because I’m not sure I have freedom of speech in this regard. I simply predict that nullification will happen.

Click through for his entire blog entry on the topic.

We at the Fully Informed Jury Association do not give legal advice. However, we do observe that we have been openly informing people of jurors’ traditional, legal authority to refuse to enforce unjust and unjustly applied laws since 1989. There are very few cases where individuals have run into legal trouble for doing so, when they do run into trouble it typically happens in association with courthouse activity and when they are not following FIJA guidelines, and even in those very few cases they are often exonerated. Thank you to the commenters who pointed Mr. Adams and his readers to our website for more information!

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Freedom Friday & Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 05 Jul 2013

-FREEDOM FRIDAY: Jury Nullification Is Part of the Justice System

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In this week’s Freedom Friday, Gersh Avery reminds us that jury nullification is an intentional part of the justice system. He points out that juries are one means by which government can be forced to obey the voters when they decide to prosecute peaceful people unjustly, such as continuing to levy charges against people in marijuana cases.

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Jury Nullification | 02 Jul 2013

-Dave Herbert Reports on His Jury Nullification Talk in Billings

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Dave Herbert sends us the following report on his recent talk to the Pachyderm Club in Billings, MT. Do you have some juror outreach activity to report? Let us know by email to aji@fija.org. We may post it on our website, social networks, publish it in our newsletter, etc. Please feel free to attach pictures!

Several weeks ago I was invited to give a talk about jury power and nullification to the pachyderm club in Billings. This is a republican group that apparently has a number of Ron Paul supporters. My talk was quite enthusiastically received. I stayed after to answer a number of questions.

The only other attorney in the group was not so keen on jury nullification.He used the statement “We are a nation of laws not of men” to argue that jury nullification was not a good idea. I reminded him that Hitler could have said the same thing about Nazi Germany when he was in charge!

I find it ironic that he would use that seductive little platitude originally coined by John Adams. As fija people know John Adam’s also stated that a jury has not only the right but also the duty to judge the law if it means preventing an injustice from occurring. Of course the statement by Adams regarding not of men referred to men such as Hitler not men one would find on an American jury.

I have several more speaking engagements lined up this Summer before republican groups. They all know I a libertarian! I still am considering running for Supreme Court next year on the judicial recognition of juror rights to ensure liberty and justice for all. Because of FIJA many citizens know about their rights in this state!

I must congratulate FIJA on what happened today in San Diego.

Dr. W. David Herbert ESQ

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