Fully Informed Jury Association

Are you fully informed about jury nullification?

Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 16 Apr 2013

-FIJA Interview with Rich Paul on Jury Nullification

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RichPaulYesterday the Fully Informed Jury Association spoke with Rich Paul, a New Hampshire man accused of multiple counts of victimless drug offenses who is pursuing a jury nullification strategy in his trial. Paul openly acknowledges sales of several ounces of marijuana and one sale of a compound that’s legal (which has apparently been misidentified by government officials as LSD). He has so far turned down two plea deals, including one that involves no jail time, instead choosing to take his case before a jury and seek a full acquittal for offenses that have harmed nobody. Paul discusses the political nature of his trial, with charges being levied against him in an apparent attempt to coerce him into spying for the FBI inside a political organization of which he is a member.

Fully Informed Jury Association: Please give us a brief rundown of your case.
Rich Paul: I am charged with, I believe, four counts of delivery of marijuana and one count of delivery of purported LSD. The marijuana charges- each delivery was a quarter pound, except for one, which was two ounces- and what was actually sold and delivered in the other count was a drug called 2ci which is legal. I expect to have that count acquitted on the facts, and the other counts-the marijuana counts-I’m going for jury nullification.

FIJA: What led you to pursue jury nullification in this case?
RP: Well, actually, my decision to make those sales in the first place was predicated on, if I get arrested-and, I knew obviously, that I was taking a risk- if I get arrested, this is my chance to strike a blow against the War on Drugs, because usually this kind of charge is faced by some scared kid who doesn’t know his rights, and he’s just afraid. When I got into this fight and moved to New Hampshire, dedicated my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor to it, and I’m going to take the risk and I’ll either be the winner or I’ll be a martyr.

FIJA: Ed Forchion mentioned during his legal process in New Jersey that “there’s a pothead on every jury”. He seemed very confident that he would at least get a hung jury. What are your expectations?
RP: My expectation is that I will get an acquittal, actually. Basically, the two people I’m going to be talking to the most are going to be two ministers. Usually the defendant will challenge religious people, but in this case, I thought that if nothing else, they would understand conscientious conviction and taking risks for what you believe in.

FIJA: So the jury has been selected?
RP: Yes, the jury has been selected. We’ve got a group-and this is what I was hoping for-a group that is mostly born right around 1950, so that makes them 18 when I was born in 1968. I figure they’re the most likely to have smoked weed and not gone to prison, and to have thought that the world would not have been a better place had they gone to prison.

FIJA: Do you have legal representation or are you representing yourself?
RP: Actually, I am being represented by a public defender, and I think that’s unique in jury nullification history because normally public defenders won’t argue for jury nullification because it’s common law-it’s not statute. We in New Hampshire got a statute passed that makes jury nullification black letter law so basically that opens up a public defender to make that argument.

FIJA: Is your public defender on board with that?
RP: She’s been great. She’s going to be making the nullification argument. I will be taking the stand and making as much of it as I can, but then she’s going to have to do the rest on close and open.

FIJA: Did the recent law passed in New Hampshire influence your decision to go this route, or would you have done it anyway? In other words, if that law hadn’t been passed, would you still have sought jury nullification?
RP: I probably would have tried to go this route anyway. I would have had to go pro se to do it, and I think that would have been much more difficult because my attorney thought of a lot of things that I did not, so I’m really glad I had her here. I would recommend that if you’re going to go pro se, hire an attorney to sit next to you and give you some advice if you possibly can.

FIJA: Did the long history of juror education activism in Keene, New Hampshire and specifically at the Cheshire County Superior Courthouse influence your decision?
RP: I’ve taken part in that activism, so that and my decision to do this flow from the same source. And also my rally- I’m standing in the middle of the Keene town square right now and we just smoked a joint in protest of the drug war. We do that every afternoon at 4:20. We’ve had up to 150 people out there doing it. I’d hoped to go for jury nullification on my arrests from this rally, which I’ve gotten arrested out here twice, but in New Hampshire, unfortunately, they have ways of snaking you out of a jury trial on misdemeanors so I had to try it again with a felony. (laughs)

Not that I was actively trying to get into this situation. I just wasn’t trying as hard as I could have NOT to get into this situation. I figured sooner or later they would probably come, and that was my chance to win the political battle.

FIJA: And from what I’ve read, it sounds like it definitely is a political case.
RP: Oh, absolutely. The other thing that’s interesting here is that when I was first picked up, I was interviewed by the FBI. They offered to put me back on the street and let me continue selling pot so long as I would wear a wire into the Keene Activist Center, which is a political group. We have nothing to do with drugs. I happen to be a member, and obviously I smoke weed. But it’s not a criminal organization-it’s a political organization. They tried to get me to wear a wire in there and entrap my friends into selling these things so that they could be blackmailed in turn. That’s how this whole thing started. They didn’t want me because I was smoking weed. They wanted me because I’m an anarchist and they thought they could get information out of me.

FIJA: Is that something that is going to come up during the trial?
RP: We’re going to make as much of an issue of it at trial as possible. It’s hard to say how much the judge is going to let in. We expect the prosecutor to hammer us with relevancy objections. I think we will be able to talk about it somewhat because I put a videotape up on YouTube that contains my giving the spiel. Basically, it’s a confession, but then it goes on and talks about my arrest and my experience with the FBI and all that. I was hoping that the prosecutor would be silly enough to actually put that statement into evidence and he did. I think it’s going to help me for the jury to hear it, and to hear it without the possibility of his objecting because it’s a videotaped statement. Whatever I said is whatever I said.

FIJA: And is there a possibility that something you’ve said about jury nullification will get introduced that way?
RP: Well, I did talk about jury nullification in that statement. It’s posted on CopBlock if you want to have a look at it. That videotape will be admitted as evidence. And, of course, I didn’t say anything in it that I didn’t intend to say on the stand anyway. It’s just that way I got mostly the whole thing out. The only thing I didn’t get on it, unfortunately, is I didn’t talk about my medical use of marijuana, but that will probably come out at trial if I can get it in.

Rich Paul’s trial begins today at 11:00 am EDT at the Cheshire County Superior Court in Keene, New Hampshire. It has apparently been delayed a few hours as another marijuana-related trial runs longer than expected.

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 15 Apr 2013

-Jury Nullification Sought by Marijuana Activist

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RichPaulMore on the Rich Paul trial, which takes place tomorrow:

Activist Facing 81 Years Admits to Selling Pot, Seeks Jury Nullification

Rich Paul, the founder of the New Hampshire based 4:20 Foundation, is facing four felony charges for selling marijuana.

The trial is set to start on April 16th, 2013 at Cheshire Superior Court in Keene, NH. Paul has admitted to the selling the pot and is going to be seeking jury nullification; the common-law right of juries to acquit a guilty defendant when the law is unjust or misapplied. Add the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the mix and the story gets much more interesting.

On May 31st, 2012 Paul was arrested in Keene, NH by Keene Police. When he arrived at the Keene Police Department he was interviewed by Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Phillip Christiana, assigned to the joint terrorism task force out of the Manchester, New Hampshire office. Agent Christiana alleged that an informant had made multiple purchases of controlled substances from Paul and indicated that the maximum sentence he would face was 81 years in prison.

Agent Christiana then offered to make the charges against Rich “go away”. If Rich would agree to wear a wire into the Keene Activist Center, surreptitiously record the other activists, and persuade them to sell drugs to Paul, the charges would disappear.Rich doesn’t recall being asked if anybody at the KAC even sold illegal drugs.

Rich Paul took a heroic stand, rejecting the offer and instead informing his fellow activists of the Agent Christiana’s request. Rather than fleeing the State or the Country, Paul has elected to fight the charges in his own way.

Click through for the entire article.

One correction to the article: Jurors in New Hampshire have always had the legal rights to judge the law as well as the facts in a case at hand and to refuse to enforce unjust or unjustly applied laws. The law passed in New Hampshire in 2012 with regard to jury nullification did not, therefore, legalize jury nullification as incorrectly stated in the article. What New Hampshire HB 146 did was to “perpetuate and reiterate the rights of the jury” by requiring that “In all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defense to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy.” In other words, the change made by the New Hampshire law was to require that the defense be allowed to inform the jury of the rights it already had to judge the law as well as the facts of the case and to refuse to convict if justice requires it even though a law may have technically been broken.

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Freedom Friday & Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 12 Apr 2013

-FREEDOM FRIDAY: Rich Paul Looking for Jury Nullification in New Hampshire Trial

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Today’s Freedom Friday features Keene, NH marijuana activist Rich Paul, who was arrested for victimless drug-related offenses. Paul states that he was targeted because of his political associations by FBI agent Philip Christiana, who Paul says tried to blackmail him with the threat of 81 years incarceration in an effort to coerce him to spy for the government on the pro-liberty movement in New Hampshire. In Paul’s own words:
RichPaul

Christiana spoke with me about what he intended for me to do. He wanted me to return to the KAC wearing a hidden transmitter, and to lie about the reason for my arrest, and to determine how people reacted, and who questioned my story. This was clearly not the actual intent of the whole operation. He repeatedly told me “You are going to have to do things that you don’t want to do”. I asked him “Like what?”. He said that some of my friends would be selected, and I would be expected to lure them into felonious drug transactions with me, in order that they could be blackmailed in the same way. I told him that if I knew anybody who was making a bomb or planning violence that I would have come to him, rather than waiting for him to come to me. He did not seem to care. He veered from solicitous to aggressive, at one point suggesting that “nobody had to go to prison”, but at another saying that “somebody was going to go to prison, it was all about who”. I answered that it was not about that, it was about right and wrong.

Paul is now charged for victimless crimes related to sales of just about a pound of marijuana over the course of a few months. His trial begins Tuesday, April 16th at Cheshire County Superior Court in Keene, NH. He has refused to take a plea deal, instead opting for a jury trial. Just last year New Hampshire passed legislation specifically allowing defendants to make the case for jury nullification before their juries. Keene, New Hampshire activists also have a history of years of consistent juror education outreach in Cheshire County, especially at Cheshire County Superior Court.

More on Paul’s situation and what he experienced at the hands of the FBI can be found via CopBlock and via Free Keene.

If you would like to recommend a jury-related video for Freedom Friday, let us know in the FIJA forum or by sending an e-mail to us at aji(at)fija.org.

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Job Opportunities | 11 Apr 2013

-Request for Proposals: FIJA Web Manager

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FIJA Logo with URL

Fully Informed Jury Association
Web Manager

Request for Proposals

11 April 2013

Project Summary
The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) maintains the website FIJA.org to educate the public about jurors’ full legal authority in defending human rights. It also has social media presence via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, and VideoJug to further this mission. FIJA also maintains a self-help legal clinic and law library companion website at FreedomLaw.com.

FIJA seeks a creative, enthusiastic, proactive, professional individual who will assess the current effectiveness of our overall web presence both in terms of educational outreach and fundraising effectiveness, suggest potential changes to increase effectiveness in both these areas, and implement such changes as FIJA administration deems appropriate. The web manager would be responsible not only for FIJA’s websites, but also for managing FIJA’s overall web presence including online social media presence, online press distribution, and so on.

The individual selected for this position will be knowledgeable about FIJA’s mission and programs, work cooperatively as a team member in harmony with FIJA policies and strategy to pursue that mission, and be proactive in informing FIJA staff about new online tools and media which we can use to further FIJA’s mission. The web manager must have a good understanding of FIJA’s mission, strategy, campaigns, and educational resources, and have a good sense of how our web presence contributes to our mission. Excellent use of the English language is required as the web manager will be updating text on our website, developing graphics which incorporate text, and so on. It is also critical that the web manager be knowledgeable in Internet security and be proactive in securing the website and backing it up regularly.

This position is offered on contract. We expect that it will require part-time work on an ongoing basis. The web manager need not be co-located with the FIJA office; however, it is essential that this individual have regular and timely contact with FIJA management in order to ensure that time-sensitive issues such as security matters, press releases, and so on are addressed appropriately.

About the Fully Informed Jury Association and American Jury Institute
The Fully Informed Jury Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational outreach organization headquartered in Helena, Montana with activists across the country. The American Jury Institute is the publishing branch through which FIJA publishes educational material in support of its mission.

FIJA focuses on issues involving the role of the jury in our justice system and the preservation of the full function of the jury as the final arbiter in our courts of law. FIJA’s mission is to educate Americans regarding their full powers as jurors, including their ability to rely on personal conscience, to judge the merit of the law and its application, and to nullify bad law, when necessary for justice, by finding for the defendant. FIJA encourages all jurors to consult their consciences when deliberating over a case, and to refuse to exercise their lawful authority to enforce any law that violates the human rights of the defendant.

FIJA conducts its campaign solely through educational outreach programs and materials, and works to achieve its goals through means appropriate to its 501(c)(3) status. It does not advocate violence or willful disobedience to the law, and does not associate itself with any anti-government movement or organization.

Goals
FIJA’s website should be a hub for juror outreach activism and organizing as well as the premier online source for information regarding jurors’ rights and responsibilities. It should be an inviting, engaging, professional, credible, and informative site where anyone can quickly learn the basics of jurors’ rights and take away enough information to feel confident in exercising them when seated on a jury. It should prominently present information on FIJA’s current campaigns, as well as encourage feedback and interaction among activists, to encourage volunteers to become involved and stay engaged in our educational outreach work. Customers and donors should be able to make purchases or to contribute easily through the website by their preferred method. Members of the media should find it easy to access FIJA’s press releases and to contact us for more information, to schedule interviews, and so on.

The Freedom Law companion website should be an easy to use hub for self-help legal information, which is particularly useful to pro se defendants or plaintiffs and other lay persons actively participating in the legal process. It should be organized in an intuitive manner that allows users to find pertinent information quickly. This information should include not only links to other websites, but the original content from the archived Freedom Law website linked from the current site.

Audience
We are targeting the following types of visitors to our website:
• Individuals seeking accurate information about jurors’ traditional legal authority
• Volunteers who wish to get involved in educational outreach
• Groups looking for speakers to inform their members about jurors’ rights and responsibilities
• Media looking for information or experts to comment knowledgeably about jury-related issues
• Donors who wish to contribute financially to FIJA’s educational mission

Site Structure and Content
All of the current content of our existing sites should be maintained through any website update, unless otherwise noted by FIJA management. The organization of information will need to be restructured in order to make it easy to use for all target audiences. We are open to categorizing information in whatever way makes sense to the site visitor, and are looking for guidance on this issue from our web manager.

Currently the FIJA website is based on WordPress. This does not necessarily need to be carried forward; however, any new website platform must continuously accessible to and useable by FIJA staff who actively participate in adding and updating content.

Some needs we have already identified for the FIJA.org website include (but are not limited to):

1. To consolidate our News page with our home page to provide a more dynamic front-page experience for our visitors, with attractive, inviting, prominent, current content on the home page.

2. To optimize our website structure and content for improved ranking with popular search engines.

3. To make as much of our content as possible more accessible by offering it in the form of attractive, searchable web pages and not as downloadable files only (.pdf, .doc, .txt, etc.).

4. To improve our Search feature such that people can quickly and easily find material relevant to their search terms.

5. To update and integrate our financial transactions (online media catalog and donations) into a single system that allows users to pay by their preferred method as simply as possible.

6. To update how we accept online donations to give donors more options including choosing a custom donation amount, signing up to make recurring donations online, opting to make a donation in someone’s honor, and so on.

7. To integrate into our Media Catalog a way to offer electronic products such as e-books for purchase.

8. To offer periodic e-mail updates directing readers’ attention to current issues and campaigns.

9. To add online forms allowing site users to request more information, to fill out a State Contact data sheet, electronically submit a request to borrow a banner through our banner loan program, and more.

This list is not inclusive of all the improvements we wish to see. The web manager will review our websites as well as other websites, make recommendations for improvements and how to integrate new online tools and technology into our websites, and implement such changes as approved by FIJA management.

Site Statistics
We would like to use Google Analytics or other appropriate tools as recommended by the web manager to track key metrics for our websites, social networks, etc. and use that information to help optimize our web presence. The web administrator should identify such metrics and regularly report these metrics to FIJA management and make recommendations for how we can use this information to improve our users’ website experience, to expand our online reach, and so on.

Graphic Design
The web manager should have a good sense of design and continuity and be able to develop original graphics for use on FIJA’s websites as needed. These include, but are not limited to, graphics educating viewers about the concepts FIJA teaches, promoting FIJA campaigns, advertising specials in our Media Catalog, and so on.

Design Look and Feel
The website design should be professional and credible yet creative, inviting, interactive, and engaging. It should make use of FIJA’s brand elements including logo, color, and font where appropriate.

Search Engine Optimization
The web manager must be familiar with standard search engine optimization tools for top search engines (such as Google Web Master Tools, etc.). The manager will periodically review our websites’ listings and rankings in top search engines for key search terms, propose changes to the website to optimize our sites’ rankings and appropriately represent FIJA in search engines, and implement such changes as agreed to by FIJA management.

Security
The website must be compliant with current security protocols and must be updated regularly to protect against any security breaches. The website manager will be responsible for identifying all security measures, discussing them with FIJA management, and implementing them as approved by FIJA management. The website manager is also expected, from time to time, to work with the security manager of the private server on which our websites are hosted to ensure we are in compliance with any standards for the private server. Backups of our websites will be regularly made by the website manager, who will also be responsible for quickly restoring our websites with the most recent backup in the event of a security breach.

Proposed Timeline
We would like to begin this project in June 2013. Our intention is to maintain the current FIJA website for public use with only minor updates during an initial design phase in which the web manager will build and test a new site in a separate test . Once the new website is fully tested and approved by FIJA management, it will replace the current website. This is an ongoing project requiring continuous management and improvement. Once the FIJA website redesign is complete and in public use, we expect to similarly redesign the Freedom Law website.

Selection Criteria
In selecting a vendor for this project, evaluation of candidates will include the following criteria:
• Experience building flexible websites, which can be easily modified by non-technical users
• Experience with creating sites that build communities and have interactive features (blogs, discussion forums, etc.)
• Experience working with nonprofit organizations and specific knowledge about and dedication to FIJA’s mission
• Solid information architecture skills for organizing content in ways that are intuitive to readers
• Knowledge of current security protocols and ability to implement them
• Demonstrated track record of professionalism, including professional use of written English
• Applicant takes a holistic approach to an organization’s web presence (e.g., insight into integrating social media platforms, campaign tracking mechanisms, etc.)
• Competitive pricing that allows us to put our limited donor funds to most effective use

To Submit a Proposal
Please submit a proposal in PDF, Word, or plain text format including the following information
• Your contact details
• Your background, qualifications, skills, past achievements and how they are relevant to this position
• An overview of the proposed project
• A diagram or outline showing the different pages of the site and proposed navigational structure
• A description of each main web page, how it fits in with the overall web site theme, and the project goal it addresses
• A development timeline including a description of each stage of the web project’s initial development, project milestones, the estimated completion date, and notes regarding client consultation and supply of information/feedback from the client
• At least three examples of websites that you have designed, three examples of graphics you have designed, a writing sample, and contact information for client references
• Detailed project cost information including both the initial design phase and the ongoing management phase

Submission Deadline
We would like to have all proposals by no later than 3 May 2013 so we can make a decision by 31 May 2013.

Contact Information
Please direct all responses to this RFP and/or any questions to:
Fully Informed Jury Association
aji@fija.org
P.O. Box 5570
Helena, MT 59604

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

-FREEDOM FRIDAY: Steve Marlowe’s Case Dismissed!

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SteveMarloweGood news this week from a friend of freedom, Steve Marlowe. You may recall from a Freedom Friday video last December that a North Carolina man arrested in Florida for simple marijuana possession was headed to court. Marlowe uses marijuana medicinally and was arrested for possessing a mere 19 grams. He refused a plea deal and opted instead to plead his case before a jury, risking a potential sentence of a year in jail and a $1000 fine. Five months and three court dates later, Marlowe’s case has been dismissed! Marlowe, who asked through his YouTube channel for jurors to nullify the law, believes the government was afraid to take the case before a jury and decided it did not want the hassle. He encourages everyone to stand up and be counted when they can by stating that they are Not Guilty. Congratulations to Steve for his big victory!

If you would like to recommend a jury-related video for Freedom Friday, let us know in the FIJA forum or by sending an e-mail to us at aji(at)fija.org.

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 01 Apr 2013

-Reminder: Juries Can Nullify Marijuana Charges If They Find Them Unjust

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Cannabis_sativa_(Köhler)While we appreciate the spirit in which the following was written, we caution jurors NOT to lobby their fellow jurors obviously toward nullification during deliberations! It has been established in court precedent that judges may remove jurors, even during deliberations, if the judge becomes aware that they are considering jury nullification in coming to a verdict. If a single fully informed juror is removed from the jury because he or she made his or her intentions known by attempting to lobby other jurors, the defendant may be left without anyone in his or her corner during deliberations. It is much better for the defendant if that fully informed juror simply hangs the jury. A hung jury is always better than a conviction, and the prosecutor will have to think twice about whether or not it is even worth it to retry the case.

Reminder: Juries Can Nullify Marijuana Charges If They Find Them Unjust

Jury nullification is a practice that dates back to before our nation was formed, and is the act of a jury acquitting someone of a charge, even if the evidence is clear, by finding them “not guilty”. By doing so, people can make sure that an individual doesn’t fall victim to unjust, archaic laws. As a juror, taking this path is simple: Vote “not guilty” to someone who is being charged with a bad law. A bad law being something like, say, cannabis prohibition. Or most non-violent convictions made under the drug war.

No matter how small the charge, such as possession of a roach – or how large, such as an 1,000 plant grow operation, a jury is completely within their legal right to find that person “not guilty”, regardless of what either attorney or the judge has to say. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

Click through for the entire article.

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Function of Juries | 01 Apr 2013

-Let ALL Jurors Ask Questions!

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Jury BoxIn light of extensive questioning by jurors in the Jodi Arias case in Arizona, author Diane Diamond makes a case for a more participatory role for jurors. This hearkens back to the historical role of jurors in England, Germany, and elsewhere, when jurors did not simply sit passively by the side as they were spoonfed carefully crafted information designed to lead them in a particular direction. Rather, jurors historically played an active role in jury trials, not only asking questions, but also independently investigating to uncover the truth. In order to deliver just verdicts, jurors must be fully informed about the relevant facts of a case at hand, as well as their rights and responsibilities in judge the facts and the law as it is applied.

Let ALL Jurors Ask Questions!

I’ve always wondered why jurors aren’t allowed to play a more active role in the trial process. If we count on our fellow citizens to pass judgment, don’t we want them to fully understand the proceedings and the facts of a case?

That’s why I’ve been so entranced watching the current headline-making, televised murder trial of Jodi Arias, 33, in Phoenix. Arizona is one of the few states with a specific law giving jurors the right to ask their own questions if something isn’t clear. Panelists write down what they want to know, and if their inquiry passes legal muster, the judge poses the question to the witness. (Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and North Carolina have similar laws.)

Click through for the entire article

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 25 Mar 2013

-Nullify the War on Drugs with 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

This excellent article comes from Mark Thornton, who argues for various forms of nullification-including jury nullification-to protect the people of Colorado and Washington states from abuse by a federal government set on pursuing the long-failed war on (some) drugs.

Nullify the War on Drugs

If the federal government does intervene in Colorado and Washington, then the people can also resort to jury nullification as a legal remedy. Jury nullification occurs when a jury, after hearing a court case, finds a defendant not guilty, even when they believe the defendant actually committed the crime. Jury nullification can occur either when the jury disagrees with the law in question or they believe that it should not be applied in a particular case.

Therefore, people can make a law invalid if juries routinely apply jury nullification to the prosecution of crimes based on that law. Basically, if juries know they have the right to nullify a law, and that if many juries consider the law unwanted, unjust, or unconstitutional, then the law becomes de facto repealed.

If the people of Colorado and Washington wisely use the power of jury nullification to protect otherwise law abiding consumers, growers, and distributors, the Federal government would be stripped of its power in that area. Moreover, such developments would spread the news about the power of jury nullification and we would once again reestablish a powerful antidote to big invasive government.

Click through for the entire article, including more commentary on jurors’ veto power.

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FIJA in the News & Jury Nullification | 19 Mar 2013

-Just Say “No” to Bad, Immoral, and Unjust Laws with Jury Nullification

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Jury BoxThanks to Stephen Littau of United Liberty, who recently posted the following article regarding jury nullification, featuring a video from FIJA Indiana State Contact Betty Ray-Mydland:

Just Say “No” to Bad, Immoral, and Unjust Laws by Saying “Yes” to Jury Duty

There is one last line of defense, something each and everyone of us can do to stop these laws as individuals: jury nullification.

Jury duty is something that most people dread but for those who want to in some small way make a difference for the cause of liberty, serving on a jury can make a significant difference. There’s a little secret about jury service that more often than not is not included in jury “instructions” by the presiding judge: the ability as a juror to make a judgement about the very law itself.

Click through for the entire article and video, including examples of situations in which Littau would nullify as a juror.

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Freedom Friday | 15 Mar 2013

-FREEDOM FRIDAY: Jurors Defend Our Freedom with Jury Nullification

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This week’s Freedom Friday video features a video from Maine Freedom Watchdogs explaining how the people’s branch of government—the jury—can veto laws through jury nullification, just as the other three branches of government can. Please take a minute at lunchtime today to pass this short video on to family and friends!

If you would like to recommend a jury-related video for Freedom Friday, let us know in the FIJA forum or by sending an e-mail to us at aji(at)fija.org/aie653l. And don’t forget that you can win cash and other prizes and have your own video featured on Freedom Friday by entering our Justice Through Jurors video contest. Details are right here.

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Media Releases | 14 Mar 2013

-FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Prosecutors Coerce Defendants to Forfeit Right to Trial by Jury

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FIJA Logo with URLMarch 14, 2013

Prosecutors Coerce Defendants to Forfeit Right to Trial by Jury

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (406) 442-7800; aji@fija.org

Helena, MT—Elliot R. Peters, attorney for the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz, alleges prosecutorial misconduct by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Heyman in a letter submitted to the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Among the grievances he lists, Peters alleges that Heyman “appears to have abused his discretion when he attempted to coerce Mr. Swartz into foregoing his right to a trial by pleading guilty. Specifically, AUSA Heyman offered Mr. Swartz four to six months in prison for a guilty plea, while threatening to seek over seven years in prison if Mr. Swartz chose to go to trial.”

“Government employees are threatening individuals—including those who have not been found guilty, but who have only been called to trial—with additional punishment if they exercise their human right to due process of trial by jury,” said FIJA Director Iloilo Jones. “That’s a very significant and damning statement. The message from government prosecutors is that ‘If you exercise your human rights, we will punish you severely for doing so. And either way we will put shackles on you, but if you cooperate, we won’t put them on your feet, only your hands.’ We are moving from a land of Law to a land of legally sanctioned retribution by government against those who exercise their right to trial by a jury of their peers. The message is clear: demand your right to a jury trial and be punished for your courage.”

Unfortunately, prosecutorial coercion is a common tactic used against defendants. When defendants refuse to give up their rights and protections under the law, they are often threatened with—and ultimately sentenced to—more harsh punishment than those who waive their rights and protections and cooperate with government.

This was evident in another recent case in the national spotlight—the case of Montana medical marijuana provider Chris Williams. Williams was one of the only defendants caught up in the federal government’s massive sweep of medical marijuana states who insisted on exercising his right to trial by jury. Williams, who did not accept a pre-trial plea bargain, was egregiously overcharged. He was ultimately convicted of 8 victimless offenses with a total mandatory minimum sentence of more than 80 years in prison—far more than many violent criminals such as rapists and murderers face.

Clearly the prosecutor did not consider such a harsh sentence necessary as, in a highly unusual move, he offered Williams increasingly lenient post-conviction plea agreements if Williams would waive his right to appeal. Williams finally accepted a deal under duress in which the government dropped 6 of the 8 charges against him, leaving him at risk of a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years.

Williams was ultimately sentenced to 5 years in prison plus time served. Two of his partners, who accepted plea bargains in exchange for testifying against Williams, were sentenced to probation with no incarceration. According to Williams’ attorney, the mean sentence for other defendants in the state who agreed to plea bargains was 18 months. Prosecuting attorney Joseph Thaggard in this case sought a much harsher sentence of 10 years for Chris Williams, citing in his sentencing recommendation memo Williams’ exercise of his Constitutionally guaranteed human right to trial by jury as evidence that Williams was not sufficiently repentant.

“Prosecutors have lost sight of their responsibility to restore justice and balance in our communities and instead focus increasingly on retribution against those who don’t cooperate, often for their own political or career advancement. FIJA encourages everyone to become fully informed about, and to reintegrate into our culture common knowledge of, the traditional role of the independent juror to refuse to enforce unjust laws and malicious prosecutions. As a juror, your vote is your veto,” said FIJA National Coordinator Kirsten Tynan. “Defendants must have a strong expectation of pleading their cases before fully informed, independent jurors who will not simply rubber stamp the conclusions to which they are led by prosecutors and judges. Prosecutorial bullying will become less effective in subverting fairness and due process as defendants’ confidence in getting a fair trial is restored.”

About the Fully Informed Jury Association
The Fully Informed Jury Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit association dedicated to educating the general public about their full rights, powers, and responsibilities in delivering just verdicts as trial jurors. The organization publishes and distributes educational literature and maintains a web site at FIJA.org to inform the general public of their Constitutional authority to protect human rights by refusing to enforce bad laws. FIJA encourages all jurors to consult their consciences when deliberating over a case, and to refuse to enforce any law that violates the human rights of the defendant.

Contact Information:
Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA)
(406) 442-7800
aji@fija.org
P.O. Box 5570
Helena, MT 59604-5570

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 13 Mar 2013

-The Will of the People Doesn’t Mean Jack to Drug Warriors

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Cannabis_sativa_(Köhler)News of a letter from former DEA officials (some of whom profit from drug-testing business and, therefore, have a vested interest in keeping it illegal) to President Obama urging him to use federal power to put down Washington’s and Colorado’s recent local votes to legalize use of marijuana in their states hit the media week. Columnist David Hummels offers some suggestions in The Western News for how peaceful people can push back against this effort to subvert local efforts to protect their own communities from government abuse of peaceful people:

The will of the people doesn’t mean jack to drug warriors

As we expose these petty tyrants, we should also seek opportunities to throw a wrench into the machinery of prohibition. A mass movement of jury nullification in drug cases may be a promising tactic.

Prosecutors can use voir dire to remove one or two questionable jurors, but what if nullification becomes widespread? They can’t remove all of us. In the future, we should view jury duty as a chance to liberate non-violent people from the state’s clutches.

Click through for the entire article.

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Missive of the Month | 11 Mar 2013

-MISSIVE OF THE MONTH: Juries Should Be Told of Nullification

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Jury BoxThank you to long-time FIJA activist David Merrick of Corvallis, Montana whose viewpoint was published in the Ravalli Republic. He writes in part:
Viewpoint: Juries should be told of nullification

What most people do not know is that a juror has the right to nullify any law that they deem wrong or unconstitutional on any particular case on which they sit. And, further more, very few judges do not or will not inform the jury that they have a right to challenge any law by a “not guilty” verdict.

A good example: During the prohibition of alcohol, jury after jury acquitted individuals and businesses charged with violating laws prohibiting the use and distribution of alcohol. In fact it became so expensive to arrest and charge those who ignored prohibition because of these juries that congress repealed the 16th Amendment that prohibited the sale and use of alcohol.

Our judges should always fully inform their juries of this important fact that the jury is the defendant’s last hope in fighting injustice.

Click through for the entire viewpoint.

Do YOU have a missive to share with us? Let us know about it by e-mailing us at aji@fija.org to be eligible to win prizes through our Missive of the Month program!

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification & Missive of the Month | 08 Mar 2013

-Jurors Don’t Need to Check Their Consciences at the Door

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FIJA Logo with URLIn this letter to the editor, published in the Montana Standard in Butte, MT, Kirsten Tynan corrects the author of another recent letter who claimed that “The notion [of jury nullification] undermines the foundation of our judicial system.”

Jurors Don’t Need to Check Their Consciences at the Door

In his 5 March letter regarding the Fully Informed Jury Act, Travis McAdams had little to say about jury nullification. Nonetheless, what he did say on the subject was incorrect. Jury nullification does not undermine the foundation of our judicial system; rather, it was purposely built into the foundation of our judicial system to protect human rights from abuse by government.

American jurors’ legal authority to veto unjust laws is grounded in English common law, upon which our legal system was based. Jurors’ veto power was designed into the American legal system through such provisions as prohibitions against defendants being put at risk of double jeopardy and against punishing jurors for their verdicts. It has been recognized repeatedly by the Supreme Court, as early as the 1794 case of Georgia v. Brailsford in which Chief Justice John Jay wrote in charging the jury that, “You have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy.” No Supreme Court ruling has overturned this power of the jury. In its 1906 ruling in the case of State v. Koch, our Montana State Supreme Court ruled that “the jury has power to disregard the law as declared and acquit the defendant, however convincing the evidence may be, and that the court or judge has no power to punish them for such conduct.”

This ruling also still stands today.

Jurors have overwhelmingly exercised nullification throughout history to protect defendants’ human rights. They frequently nullified fugitive slave laws to protect defendants accused of aiding runaway slaves. In the Shadrach Rescue Cases, for example, government failed in five consecutive trials to convict any defendant—black or white—of aiding in the escape of Shadrach Minkins. Before the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision decriminalizing consensual same-sex intimate conduct, juries frequently refused to convict defendants under anti-sodomy laws, even when presented with clear evidence that they had technically violated the law. Georgetown University law professor Paul Butler encourages jurors to refuse to enforce victimless drug laws that have disproportionately been used against and disproportionately harm people of color. And so on.

These are simple facts of the American legal system: Jurors cannot be required to check their consciences at the courthouse door, nor can they be punished for their verdicts.

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Media Releases | 07 Mar 2013

– Murder-by-Drone of Americans Subverts Constitutional and Human Rights

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FIJA Logo with URL

March 7, 2013

Murder–by-Drone of Americans Subverts
Constitutional and Human Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (406) 442-7800; aji@fija.org

Helena, MT—Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wrapped up a nearly 13-hour long filibuster very early this morning, in which he demanded answers from the Obama administration regarding its position on extrajudicial use of drones to kill American citizens on American soil. Though challenged repeatedly about the legality of killing citizens in violation their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to due process and trial by jury, the Obama administration has thus far shown only disdain for Americans’ Constitutional and human rights.

The administration’s official response so far, delivered in a March 4, 2013 letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Senator Paul, has been abhorrent. Attorney General Holder wrote, “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.” Holder invoked December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001 as examples when an administration might decide to use such power.

This is an appalling misrepresentation of the protections for due process and trial by jury guaranteed in the Constitution, and hearkens back to the days in which English citizens in the American colonies listed their grievances against King George. The United States’ own Declaration of Independence lists “For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury” and “Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies” among the reasons why its signatories declared independence. To ensure such injustice would not occur in the United States, founders explicitly documented the rights to due process and trial by jury not only in the body of the Constitution, but in three of the first ten amendments to it, which comprise the Bill of Rights.

“In its insistence on longer sentences for those who demand their right to trial by jury, the government is already demonizing trial by jury. Killing people with drones is denying them of the right to trial by jury entirely,” said FIJA Director Iloilo Jones. “Any action by government that denies us of the protection of a trial before our peers is tyranny. Death without due process is not only murder, but is a declaration of war against peaceful and innocent people. We are all innocent until proven guilty before a jury of our peers. Without the protection of the jury, we are once again at the whim of government, and our lives, liberty, and property are all subject to the personal whim of some politician or bureaucrat.”

Independent juries take the people’s fate out of the hands of government. The primary purpose of the jury is to protect individuals from tyrannical abuses of power by government. Jurors can protect their neighbors, and themselves in the process, by insisting that government rigorously prove a defendant is guilty before he is punished and by refusing to enforce unjust or unjustly applied laws.

“If Mr. Holder wants to call up the specter of World War II, we would do well also to remember that government used that same war as a shameful excuse to imprison unjustly over 100,000 Japanese-Americans without charge, trial, or any recourse whatsoever,” said FIJA National Coordinator Kirsten Tynan. “The attacks of September 11 have similarly been invoked in justifying abusive government actions taken against Muslim-Americans and others. The disturbing difference here is that, instead of stopping at abusing or imprisoning people, this administration has for the first time put the outright killing of innocent people without any accountability on the table. It is a ‘permanent solution’, once used in Nazi Germany, from which victims or their families can never be restored to any degree.”

About the Fully Informed Jury Association
The Fully Informed Jury Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit association dedicated to educating the general public about their full rights, powers, and responsibilities in delivering just verdicts as trial jurors. The organization publishes and distributes educational literature and maintains a web site at FIJA.org to inform the general public of their Constitutional authority to protect human rights by refusing to enforce bad laws. FIJA encourages all jurors to consult their consciences when deliberating over a case, and to refuse to enforce any law that violates the human rights of the defendant.

Contact Information:
Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA)
(406) 442-7800
aji@fija.org
P.O. Box 5570
Helena, MT 59604-5570

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