Fully Informed Jury Association

Are you fully informed about jury nullification?

Missive of the Month | 11 Mar 2013

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


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In fact it became so expensive to arrest and charge those who ignored prohibition because of these juries that congress repealed the 16th Amendment that prohibited the sale and use of alcohol.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.

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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


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.


Media Releases | 07 Mar 2013

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


FIJA Logo with URL

March 7, 2013

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

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
P.O. Box 5570
Helena, MT 59604-5570



Function of Juries | 07 Mar 2013

-Rand Paul’s Filibuster Attempt to Hold Obama and Holder to Jury Protection of Human Rights


C. Jeffrey Small wrote yesterday about Rand Paul’s filibuster attempt to force President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to uphold the Constitution which they have sworn to defend—including its provisions for due process and trial by jury.

Subject: Action Alert

Earlier today, Rand Paul, the Republican Senator from KY, began a filibuster of the nomination of Obama appointee, John Brennan, to head up the CIA. Paul is conducting this filibuster in an attempt to force President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to declare their allegiance to the Writ of Habeas Corpus (Section 9) and the right to trial by Jury (5th Amendment) as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. He is demanding that they state categorically that the Executive branch does not have the authority to unilaterally target for death, any American citizen on American soil who does not pose an immediate threat. So far, both have refused to make a clear declaration.

The need to take such a stand comes in the wake of the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) coupled with the administration’s recent actions to turn Homeland Security into a unconstitutional, national, military organization and transition local police into a paramilitary force, while concurrently stockpiling arms and ammo and deploying drones across America.

If you are not already concerned, then you haven’t been paying attention!

We now have a government that has gone mad with power and has no hesitation in mowing down any pesky constitutional concerns that still get in its way. Rand Paul has drawn a line in the sand and is taking a firm stand for limiting the government to its ennumerated powers and for protecting all of our rights. This filibuster is a symbolic act, and a very important one. The question is will the administration be forced to concede that their are limits to its actions, or will this filibuster simply fizzle out and soon be forgotten, along with the last remnants of our rights.

While Rand Paul concluded his filibuster in the wee hours of this morning, making his nearly 13-hour long filibuster the 9th longest in United States Senate history, the debate is not over. Work must continue to protect human rights to life and liberty from murder merely at the president’s whim by way of his infamous “kill list” .

Click through to read the entire commentary and to find out how you can continue this effort to ensure that Americans are protected by Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to due process and to trial by jury from summary execution by presidential edict without due process.


Interviews & Jury Nullification | 06 Mar 2013

-Kirsten Tynan Talks Jury Nullification on The Preppers Poitin Hour


FIJA National Coordinator Kirsten Tynan joined Chris Watson as a last minuted guest this past Monday, 4 March, on The Preppers Poitin Hour. Click through to hear the show on-demand. Kirsten joins the show about a half hour into the broadcast.


Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 05 Mar 2013

-Jury Nullification is the Best Way to Keep Government Under Control


Thanks to Michigan FIJA activist Rose Lear for this blog post on the power of jury nullification in keeping government in check:

Jury Nullification is the Best Way to Keep Government Under Control

he Jury is our last line of defense against an out of control Government moving toward Fascism. There are many groups of activists today who all have their issues and Special Interests. They spend lots of money lobbying law makers for things they want no matter who’s liberties they may step on to get what they want.

We hold primaries and elections to choose the best candidate to run for office and they all take an oath to uphold and protect your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, until they get elected. Then they soon forget that thing called the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

But lucky for Americans, we still have that last VOTE that not only counts, but can NULLIFY all the bad and unconstitutional laws our wayward elected employees make.

Here are the two most FEARED words that our Government never wants to hear.


Click through for the entire post.


Function of Juries | 04 Mar 2013

-Jury Finds Occupy Wall Street Protester Innocent After Video Contradicts Police Testimony


Jury Finds Occupy Wall Street Protester Innocent After Video Contradicts Police Testimony

In the first jury trial stemming from an Occupy Wall Street protest, Michael Premo was found innocent of all charges yesterday after his lawyers presented video evidence directly contradicting the version of events offered by police and prosecutors.

In the police version of events, Premo charged the police like a linebacker, taking out a lieutenant and resisting arrest so forcefully that he fractured an officer’s bone. That’s the story prosecutors told in Premo’s trial, and it’s the general story his arresting officer testified to under oath as well.

…the video prominently shows a TARU cop named Bosco, holding up his camera, which is on, and pointing at the action around the kettle. When Premo’s lawyers subpoenaed Bosco, they were told he was on a secret mission at “an undisclosed location,” and couldn’t respond to the subpoena. Judge Robert Mandelbaum didn’t accept that, and Bosco ultimately had to testify [Correction: Bosco didn’t take the stand; he had to appear at the District Attorney’s office for a meeting with Maurus and prosecutors. Judge Mandelbaum accepted that Bosco would likely say on the stand what he said in the meeting, and didn’t require him to testify.] Bosco claimed, straining credibility, that though the camera is clearly on and he can be seen in the video pointing it as though to frame a shot, he didn’t actually shoot any video that evening.

Even more importantly, the Democracy Now video also flipped the police version of events on its head. Far from showing Premo tackling a police officer, it shows cops tackling him as he attempted to get back on his feet.

Click through for the entire article discussing the situation, which involved the defendant being down on the ground trying to crawl when police claim he charged them.

This is very similar to the case of Phil Mocek-who was acquitted by a jury without ever presenting a defense case-after it became clear that the testimony of the law enforcement officers involved did not match the evidence on video that Phil recovered after it disappeared from his camera while in the custody of police.

Jurors should keep in mind that the testimony of law enforcement officers holds no special authority simply because they have badges. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Statements made by government agents should be weighed thoughtfully, taking into consideration potential prejudice against the defendant and for the prosecution, and that as human beings, they are as able to supply inaccurate information, whether inadvertently or intentionally, as any other witness.


Jury Nullification & Volunteer | 04 Mar 2013

-Breath of Fresh Air Spring Special


Cabin fever getting to you? Ready to get outside and stretch your legs as the weather warms up? As the weather starts to warm up, our Breath of Fresh Air Spring Special might be just what you need! Click on the graphic to place your order in our online Media Catalog.


Don’t forget as you are outside hosting information tables at local events, passing out literature, marching in parades, and so on this season to snap some pictures and send them to us at aji@fija.org along with a little information on your outreach activities. We may feature you on our website or in a future newsletter.


FIJA in the News & Jury Nullification | 02 Mar 2013

-RT America Discusses Jury Nullification with Kirsten Tynan


Abby Martin of RT America’s program Breaking the Set discusses jury nullification and FIJA outreach with FIJA staff member Kirsten Tynan:


Freedom Friday & Jury Nullification | 01 Mar 2013

-FREEDOM FRIDAY: Houston Free Thinkers Outreach


As the weather warms up and sidewalk activism ramps up, this week we feature the Houston Free Thinkers in our Freedom Friday video. Members of the Houston Free Thinkers recently held an Info Jam at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston, Texas. They passed out information on jury nullification and other issues. We spotted FIJA’s Fresh Air for Justice, Primer for Prospective Jurors, and True and False brochures, plus our Jury Rights Day postcards, in this video. Thank you, Houston Free Thinkers, for helping get the word out about jurors’ power to protect human rights!

We invite you to take a moment during your lunch break today to distribute the link to this blog post to your friends and family via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If you would like to recommend a jury-related video for promotion on Freedom Friday, let us know in the FIJA forum or by sending an e-mail to us at aji(at)fija.org/aie653l.


Jury Nullification | 28 Feb 2013

-TONIGHT: FIJA Board Member Don Doig on The View From Montana



FIJA co-founder and board member Don Doig will be on
The View from Montana on Blog Talk Radio
tonight at 8:00 pm Mountain time.
Listen from anywhere live or on-demand after the broacast.
Listeners may call in to speak with the host at:
(646) 564-9915


Jury Nullification | 27 Feb 2013

-Update on Georgia’s Fully Informed Jury Bill


FIJA national is a non-political, strictly educational organization. We do not support or oppose any piece of legislation. However, we do track legislation that is relevant to our educational mission. We have come across a mention of the Fully Informed Jury bill currently going through the legislative process in Georgia:

Doug Holt: Heading into intense portion of the session

HB 25, titled the Fully Informed Jury Act of 2013, would require that judges allow a defendant to argue for jury nullification in court proceedings. Jury nullification happens when a jury either disagrees with the law the defendant is being charged under, or feels that the law shouldn’t be applied in the case before them. Thus the jury essentially takes the law into its own hands and acquits. The author seems to feel that judges are given undue discretion in whether to allow discussion of nullification.


Function of Juries | 27 Feb 2013

-Beware of Jury Duty Scams


Muskegon County, Michigan residents have been targeted by a variation of a recurring scam in which they are threatened by a caller or through e-mail with arrest for allegedly missing jury duty.

Jury Duty Scam

We have received numerous phone calls from citizens and potential jurors informing us that they have received phone calls and e-mails stating that they have missed jury duty. Some have been told their name is on a list at the courthouse, some have been told that they have a bench warrant out for their arrest. Some have been told that they have the option to pay a $500 fine or serve a 30 day jail sentence.

Snopes.com confirms that this variations of this scam have been cropping up for years. We remind everyone to be cautious and independently verify information before disclosing personal details, making payments, etc. if contacted by an unknown individual.


Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 19 Feb 2013

-University of Virginia Honor Committee’s Proposed Jury Reforms Are Ill-Advised


Two members of the University of Virginia’s law school faculty, Josh Bowers, Associate Professor of Law, and Kim Forde-Mazrui, William S. Potter Professor of Law, penned the following commentary on proposed changes to the University of Virginia Honor Committee’s jury system. The Honor Committee proposes, among other things, to abandon the jury of twelve students, randomly selected in each case, and to replace it with a panel of five Honor Committee members who would serve on an on-going basis. Professors Bowers and Ford-Mazrui make an excellent case for maintaining an independent jury of peers, especially in the Honor Committee system which imposes a single, harsh sanction of expulsion in all cases, regardless of the severity of the offense.

Proposed Jury Reforms Are Ill-Advised

Concretely, we believe that a jury trial right is integral to an honor system that summarily expels all offenders convicted at trial. We are troubled, therefore, to discover that the Honor Committee now intends to water down—if not outright abandon—the very hallmark of its proud Honor System. We are all the more dismayed by the Committee’s reasons and explanations—reasons and explanations that fly in the face of constitutional tradition, historical experience, established judicial doctrine, and social science. If nothing else, we now write to set the record straight about the value of a randomly selected jury (and direct democratic participation, more generally), and we urge the Committee to reconsider its position and the student body to reject the proposed reforms.

Our criminal justice system has long comprehended that a lay collective is the best mechanism to guard against apathetic, overzealous, and biased prosecutors and judges. In this vein, the Court has held that professional five-person juries—like the proposed panel—are insufficient to ensure impartiality, deliberation, accuracy, and fairness. According to the Court in Duncan v. Louisiana—the seminal opinion that extended the constitutional right to juries to state criminal trials—“the common-sense judgment of a jury” may be preferable “to the more tutored but perhaps less sympathetic reaction of the single judge.” The Court understood that a lay body brings with it a unique perspective that an elite professional panel may lack. For this reason, the Court observed in Glasser v. United States that a jury must be “truly representative of the community, and not the organ of any special group or class.” Lay juries—and, by extension, randomly selected student juries—bring to each case fresh eyes and everyday wisdom (which, in turn, may lead them to different results). As the Duncan Court observed: “[W]hen juries differ with the result at which the judge would have arrived, it is usually because they are serving some of the very purposes for which they were created and for which they are now employed.”

At bottom, institutional actors are subject to institutional biases, including a tendency to presume guilt. Their perspectives are colored by their positions. It is no surprise, then, that the Honor Committee currently expresses deep disagreement with acquittals that served to defeat the very charges that Committee members saw fit to bring. Look no further than the Campaign for Honor’s own website. Throughout, the unmistakable tenor is that accused students who challenge charges do so dishonestly. The Committee has appointed itself arbiter of what constitutes “overwhelming evidence,” and it has dubbed all randomly-selected students who came to different conclusions “apprehensive and uncomfortable” with the Honor System. And we anticipate that the elite members of the proposed jury panel will skew likewise in favor of conviction.

We grant that there almost certainly are genuine instances of randomly selected student juries nullifying honor trials, even if we cannot identify such cases conclusively. But we think that these student juries may acquit at high rates for the same reason that common-law juries commonly acquitted defendants facing mandatory capital punishment for relatively trivial felonies under England’s “Bloody Code”: acquittal was the only option to a sometimes intolerably disproportionate sanction. In the face of a single sanction, an acquittal may convey the message that the punishment is too harsh. Rather than heed that message, the Honor Committee proposes to shoot the messenger (that is, the randomly selected jury) and replace it with a “highly trained” panel that, to paraphrase H.L. Mencken, is prepared to impose the single sanction good and hard.

In imposing a single, harsh sanction for all offenses, regardless of proportionality of the punishment to the severity of the offense, the University of Virginia Honor Committee is pursuing a retributive strategy rather than a restorative one. Rather than to address the injustice of the single-sentence punishment system, such as by entrusting the jury with finding an appropriate sentence, it seeks to dismiss the independent jury altogether to be replaced with a panel predisposed toward imposing harsh punishment rather than restoring balance to the community. It is a shame that, in the home state of Thomas Jefferson who famously defended the jury as “the only anchor yet devised by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution,” an institution of higher learning seeks to rid itself of that anchor.

We encourage you to read the entire article. It illustrates that juries need not be operated formally within the government legal system to be an effective body in protecting the rights of all involved including the accused, restoring balance, and delivering justice in a community.


Jury Nullification | 18 Feb 2013

-Reader Questions Why ‘Fully Informed Jury Act’ Failed


Montana’s Larry Dodge Fully Informed Jury Act recently made it out of committee, but subsequently was voted down on the House floor. This letter to the editor comes from a local Montana reader questioning the votes of many Montana representatives:

Reader questions why ‘Fully Informed Jury Act’ failed

“The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.” — John Jay, first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1789.

What part of this statement do 62 members of the Montana House of Representative not understand? Who could possibly be threatened by a citizen who knows his rights, and exercises his duty as a juror? If chaos is the concern, as suggested by the Montana Bar Association lobbyist, then one must expect they believe that people aware of their rights are a threat to civil order.

This kind of thinking compels me to question who is the real and larger threat. House Bill 290 (the “Larry Dodge Fully Informed Jury Act”) failed Saturday, Feb. 9, on the House floor. This bill would simply require judges to inform jurors of their right and duty. Twenty-three Republicans joined all Democrats and voted against your “right to an informed, impartial jury,” in violation of their oath.

If this bothers you, contact your legislator and demand an explanation.

Bob Wagner


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