Fully Informed Jury Association

Are you fully informed about jury nullification?

Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 16 Jan 2013

-Rep. Gregory Files Bill on Jurors’ Rights (Georgia)

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Note: While FIJA national does not take any position regarding any piece of legislation, we do track legislation that is relevant to our educational mission.

News of the jurors’ rights bill we are tracking in Georgia is now being reported in the local media. From The Marietta Daily Journal:

Rep. Gregory Files Bill on Jurors’ Rights

As a juror, it is your duty to protect our citizens by sending criminals to jail; however, if you believe the defendant is being prosecuted under an unjust law, you have the right, and the constitutional and moral obligation to protect the defendant from tyrannical government and acquit,” Gregory said.

The freshman lawmaker described the procedure as a powerful, under-utilized final check-and-balance measure that citizens have against the arbitrary exercise of power “from an out-of-control government.”

As a juror, it is your duty to protect our citizens by sending criminals to jail; however, if you believe the defendant is being prosecuted under an unjust law, you have the right, and the constitutional and moral obligation to protect the defendant from tyrannical government and acquit,” Gregory said.

The freshman lawmaker described the procedure as a powerful, under-utilized final check-and-balance measure that citizens have against the arbitrary exercise of power “from an out-of-control government.”

We are very proud of our activists who have been educating everyone in Georgia regarding their power when serving as jurors to protect everyone’s human rights by refusing to rubber stamp malicious prosecutions and by refusing to enforce unjust laws. Thank you for your hard work!

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Jury Nullification | 16 Jan 2013

-Iowa State Jury Rights Bill

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While FIJA national does not support or oppose any piece of legislation, we do track legislation that is relevant to our educational mission. We have word from FIJA State Contact Dell Lawrence that a Jury Rights Bill will be introduced in the Iowa legislature this session. It has sponsors in both the Iowa House and Senate. The text of the bill as proposed is as follows:

An Act relating to jurors judging the law as well as finding the facts in a trial.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF IOWA:

Section 1. NEW SECTION. 624.39 Jury right to judge law.
1. In all cases where the state or a political subdivision of the state is the plaintiff, the rights of the defendant include the right to inform the jury of the jury’s right to judge the law as well as be finders of fact, and to render a verdict based upon conscience.
2.
a. The right of the jury to judge the law and to render a verdict based upon conscience in subsection 1 is absolute and shall not be limited by the rules of civil or criminal procedure, the juror’s oath, a court order, or a procedure or practice of the court.
b. A method or procedure shall not be used to exclude or limit the empanelment of a juror willing to exercise the right of a juror to judge the law and to render a verdict based upon conscience.
3. After a jury has been informed of the right to judge the law and to render a verdict based upon conscience, a party shall not be prohibited from presenting arguments to the jury which relate to issues of the law and conscience, including but not limited to the following:
a. The merit, intent, constitutionality, or applicability of the law in the case.
b. The motive, moral perspective, or circumstances of the defendant.
c. The degree and direction of guilt or actual harm done in the case.
d. The punishment, penalty, or other sanction that may be applied to the losing party.
4. It shall be grounds for a mistrial if the court prohibits a party from informing the jury about the right of the jury to judge the law and to render a verdict based upon conscience, to prohibit arguments appealing to conscience as provided in subsection 3, or to instruct a jury to not act as judges of the law.
EXPLANATION
This bill relates to jurors judging the law as well as acting as finders of fact in a trial.

The bill provides that in cases where the state or a political subdivision of the state is the plaintiff, the rights of the defendant include the right to inform the jury to judge the law as well as be finders of fact, and to render a verdict based upon the law and conscience.

The bill establishes the right of the jury to be absolute and not to be limited by the rules of civil or criminal procedure, the juror’s oath, a court order, or a procedure or practice of the court.

The bill prohibits the use of a method or procedure to exclude or limit the empanelment of a juror willing to exercise the right to judge the law.

Under the bill, a party may present evidence relating to the merit, intent, constitutionality, or applicability of the law in a case; the motive, moral perspective, or circumstances of the defendant; the degree and direction of guilt or actual harm done in the case; and the punishment or sanction which may be applied to the losing party in the case.
Under the bill, it is grounds for a mistrial if the court prohibits a party from informing the jury about the right of the jury to judge the law, to prohibit arguments appealing to conscience as provided in subsection 3, or to instruct a jury to not act as judges of the law.

The House version of the bill is numbered HF 542 and the Senate version is numbered SF 318.

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Jury Nullification | 14 Jan 2013

-Nullification: An Overview of Its Many Forms

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The Tenth Amendment Center defines nullification as “any act, or set of actions, that results in a particular law being declared unconstitutional and rendered null, void or even just unenforceable…” The following article provides an overview of five forms nullification may take. We excerpt the passage on jury nullification here, but you can click through to read the entire article.

Nullification: An Overview of its Many Forms

Jury nullification gives the accused in a case the opportunity to override an unjust law by appealing to the jury to judge not just the evidence, but the law itself. In cases where an individual’s back is up against the wall, it is a very important tool to have in one’s arsenal. This is true even when a judge forbids the use of such an appeal, as happened in the “NJ Weedman” case. A large part of the success of jury nullification depends greatly upon jurors knowing ahead of time about it, as it is likely judges will try to use the same tactic of forbidding appeals to it. Another part of the success of jury nullification depends on actually getting a trial, which disqualifies it as a tool against the NDAA, which provides for indefinite detention without trial, or ObamaCare, which imposes fines and jail time without trial.

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Freedom Friday | 11 Jan 2013

-FREEDOM FRIDAY: SPEAK WITH CONVICTION

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This week in our Freedom Friday video, we are featuring a poetic reminder from poet Taylor Mali about speaking with conviction. Keep in mind this year as you are educating your family, friends, or neighbors about the power of the jury, to speak with the confidence of your convictions.

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

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 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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Jury Nullification | 09 Jan 2013

-Peaceful Defendant Convicted by Misinformed Jury Is Sentenced to 10 Years

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After a misinformed jury convicted medical marijuana provider Aaron Sundusky of victimless offenses which were legal under state law, a judge has now officially sentenced him to the mandatory minimum ten years in prison.

One-Time Medical Marijuana Distributor Sentenced to Ten-Year Mandatory Minimum

While the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary survived the latest move to shut it down, the one-time owner of several dispensaries in Los Angeles received one of the harshest sentences yet – ten years in prison – after he declined to take a plea deal.

In sentencing Aaron Sandusky Monday for acts that are legal under California law, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said:

In this case, as the defendant was warned, the court’s hands are tied … Whether you agree with the defendant’s position or not.

Unfortunately, Aaron Sandusky’s case once again illustrates the dangerous combination of mandatory minimum sentencing combined with a judges’ power to tilt the playing field in favor of prosecution. This article highlights two pivotal points on which the jury was misinformed in this case:

At trial, Sandusky’s lawyers were precluded from making the argument that Sandusky was complying with state law, and had relied upon statements by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder that they would not prioritize prosecution of individuals complying with state medical marijuana laws. Prosecutors also discouraged the jury from making a “moral” decision about the case by engaging by what is known as jury nullification. The jury instructions even included the sentence: “Congress has defined marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance, making it illegal under federal law. You must disregard any state or local law to the contrary.”

This highlights the importance of sustained and ongoing FIJA activism in our communities. We need to inform everyone of the full rights and responsibilities of jurors LONG before they get inside a courthouse. Judges often misinform jurors explicitly during court proceedings, especially in the context of jury instructions, under color of authority. The earlier potential jurors learn about juror veto, the longer they have to research and think about newly acquired knowledge and to develop the confidence they need to act on it even if instructed otherwise by an authority figure such as a judge.

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Jury Nullification | 08 Jan 2013

-Montana and Georgia State Fully Informed Jury Bills

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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 are now aware of proposed informed jury measures in two states in process in the current legislative session.

Bill Draft #LC1449, with short title “Revise jury instruction laws” has been requested in the Montana House of Representatives and is currently in the drafting process. We understand that the bill will be known as the “Larry Dodge Fully Informed Jury Act of 2013” and is proposed to contain language stating 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.” Text of the proposed measure is not yet available on the website of the Montana Legislature.

HB 25 Fully Informed Jury Act of 2013 was pre-filed in the Georgia House of Representatives in December. Proposed text of this measure is available in .pdf format on the website of the Georgia General Assembly. It currently contains language stating that “In a criminal jury trial, the court shall permit the defendant or his or her counsel to argue for jury nullification in its role as the judges of the law and the facts pursuant to Article I, Section I, Paragraph XI of the Constitution.” It further provides for the repeal of any laws or parts of laws in conflict with this proposed Act.

Please let us know if you are aware of any other proposed informed jury legislation by sending us an e-mail at aji(at)fija.org

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Volunteer | 07 Jan 2013

-Pastor James R. Grove, 1946-2013

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PastorJimGroveWe have received sad news that Pastor Jim Grove passed away on 3 January 2013 at Pinnacle Health Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at the age of 66. Pastor Grove served as a FIJA State Contact in Pennsylvania where he was very active in free speech, religious freedom, and jury rights issues. After a kidney transplant in August, Pastor Grove experienced complications in mid-September. He leaves his beloved wife of more than 44 years, Pearl (Bosley); his son, Jonathan; two grandsons, Noah and Nolan; and a nephew, Bruce.

Known locally for open air preaching in public, he served as pastor at Heritage Baptist Church of Loganville, Pennsylvania, an unregistered, independent Baptist Church.

Pastor Grove stood firmly against government efforts to censor his political and religious views. In 2002 in his activist efforts not related to FIJA, Grove sponsored an entry in the annual York Halloween parade featuring graphic anti-abortion images. City police prevented him from participating in the parade, and confiscated signs carried by group members. He was charged with a variety of counts including such generic charges as disorderly conduct and harassment.

Pastor Grove represented himself through a lengthy legal process. In his closing arguments at his trial, Grove displayed a chain to the jury. He informed the jurors that through their decision, they would either put the chains on the state or on the preacher. If they chained the preacher, Grove told them, they were also chaining themselves. The twelve-member jury found Grove Not Guilty on the disorderly conduct charge, and a judge found him Not Guilty on the harassment charges.

Grove and several others filed a civil rights lawsuit against York in 2003, resulting in a ruling barring city officials from excluding their entry from the parade. The city decided in 2004 to relegate Grove’s parade entry to the tail end of the parade. Arguing that in so doing city officials violated their civil rights, Grove and others again file a lawsuit against the city and again they prevailed.

In addition to open air preaching, Pastor Grove took his preaching to the air waves, producing and hosting a public TV program, “Call the Preacher”, on Public Access TV. He also broadcast a series of talks given to his church on the rights and responsibilities of jurors in a four part series. This series on the power of the jury was the basis for FIJA’s 6-part Challenge for Churches video seminar series.

James R. Grove Obituary
Pastor Jim Grove dies in Harrisburg at 66
Rev. Jim Grove, known for public preaching and anti-abortion demonstrations, dies

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Freedom Friday & Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 04 Jan 2013

-FREEDOM FRIDAY: MAN SENTENCED TO JAIL FOR ALLEGED SIGN ORDINANCE VIOLATION

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15-day jail sentence over Lockport sign

We kick off 2013 Freedom Fridays today with this video about a man who was sentenced to 15 days in jail for a sign ordinance violation. David Mongielo is a Lockport, NY businessman who was fined hundreds of dollars and sentenced to jail for violating a Lockport sign ordinance that limits the frequency of message changes on signs. He was alleged to be in violation of the ordinance for improperly displaying a message informing the community of an upcoming fundraiser for a man who had lost both his legs in an auto accident.

Not surprisingly, this man was both convicted and sentenced to jail by a judge. A judge has a conflict of interest in making a judgement of guilt or innocence because he or she makes a living by keeping the legal system full, thereby ostensibly justifying his or her “services”. A traditional, common law jury consists of independent, free people who are not beholden to anybody and can render an independent, just verdict.

Fortunately, The Niagra Falls Reporter provides an update in this case:

Update on Lockport Sign Law Protester Who Sought to Help Injured Deputy

The last we had heard from Mongielo, his case was delayed by the court because he chose to represent himself, but had failed to properly inform the court.

The new court date, before Lockport Town Justice Raymond Schilling – who had formerly sentenced Mongielo to jail, but whose conviction was overturned because Schilling had failed to permit Mongielo a jury trial- is set for January 8, 2013.

Mongielo has argued that his sign was in compliance with the local ordinance. He has also argued that non-commercial speech such as the announcement of the fundraiser is protected under the Constitution and cannot be regulated.

The Niagra Falls Reporter wonders if jury nullification may come into play in this case:

The Reporter has been interested in whether the issue of jury nullification, the right of 12 jurors to use common sense in deciding both the facts and fairness of the law, and its application, will come into play in this case. It well lends itself to the question of whether a law should be upheld when it doesn’t make sense or create any sense of justice.

The jury can legally veto the law by finding Mongielo not guilty despite the fact that Lockport officials, who have had a long-standing political feud with Mongielo, seek to have him put in jail because they believe they got him on a technicality.

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Function of Juries | 03 Jan 2013

Obama Signs NDAA with Indefinite Detention Provision Still in Place

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Obama signs 2013 defense authorization, minus indefinite detention ban

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which outlines the Pentagon’s budget for the following year. Though the newest NDAA still allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens, the president insisted in a signing statement that his administration would not use this power.

“I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,” Obama wrote. “Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation.”

He wrote an identical two sentences in his signing statement for the 2012 NDAA.

But to the American Civil Liberties Union, the president’s word alone was insufficient. “President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day.” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement.

The infamous National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, which was passed by the United States House and Senate and signed by President Obama, contained blatant and egregious violations of constitutional and human rights. For example, Section 1021 provided for indefinite detention without trial by jury of people accused, but not convicted, of a vaguely defined set of offenses including the effectively boundless charge of committing a “belligerent act” against the United States or its coalition partners.

While the Obama administration promised not to use this provision, it then proceeded to defend it in court against a group of journalists who feared that their First Amendment activities could land them in indefinite detention. This past May, a U.S. District Court judge enjoined a portion of the 2012 law dealing with indefinite detention, identifying it as unconstitutional on both First and Fifth Amendment grounds. In response, the Obama administration filed an emergency motion to lift the injunction pending an immediate appeal of the ruling. It’s not clear why such an emergency measure would be needed to keep in place an unconstitutional power the president promised never to use. Nonetheless, the injunction was stayed on appeal, thereby restoring the indefinite detention provision of the 2012 NDAA measure while the case wound its way through the court.

Meanwhile, legislative measures were attempted to remedy this pernicious end run around the Bill of Rights. In December 2012, the Senate passed the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2013, adding a Section 1033, also known as the Feinstein-Lee Amendment. The Feinstein-Lee Amendment was put forth to correct, at least partially, the unconstitutional indefinite detention provisions. The proposed amendment disallowed “detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.” (Some parties pointed out flaws in the amendment as written, such as that it could be interpreted to mean that Congress could authorize indefinite detention by enacting a statute, which does not meet the standard set in the Bill of Rights.)

While the Feinstein-Lee Amendment was included in the version of the bill that passed the Senate, it was not present in the bill as passed by the House and was subsequently stripped from the bill without explanation from the final language of the bill by the conference committee resolving differences between the Senate and House versions.

Closing the loop yesterday, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, complete with the indefinite detention provision intact, giving only a non-legally binding verbal assurance that he won’t use it. Since the Constitution itself, complete with the Fifth Amendment, is supposed to be the guarantee that government will take no such actions, however, passing and signing a bill that directly contradicts that Constitutional guarantee puts all of us at risk.

As was the NDAA passed for 2012, this version of the National Defense Authorization Act sells out the due process promises made in Constitution as well as everyone who could potentially be charged with any of the limitless undefined offenses the government could possibly invent. When government acts as lawmaker, judge, jury, and prison warden, unburdened by any mechanism of accountability to or check on its power by those subjected to its whims, justice for our families and neighbors is easily subverted in favor of political power and privilege.

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Jurors Doing Justice & Jury Nullification | 31 Dec 2012

Prosecution as Persecution: The Carol Asher Case

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William Norman Grigg writes about the careless reaction of Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden when Grigg asked him at a public meeting about his attempt to put a 66-year-old woman in prison for 14 years for conscientiously acting as an independent, fully informed juror. Carol Asher was seated as a juror in a case in which .15 grams of meth were found in a company vehicle driven by the defendant. Asher and 3 other jurors voted to acquit, resulting in a hung jury. Afterward, a vindictive jury foreman reported her to the prosecutor who subsequently filed perjury charges against Asher. The charge was hastily dismissed by a judge after an evidentiary hearing, but not before costing Asher thousands of dollars to defend herself against a frivolous prosecution.

Prosecution as Persecution: The Carol Asher Case

“Hi, my name is Larry Wasden,” explained the short, stocky man, flashing a politician’s practiced smile and extending a hand. “I’m the Attorney General.”

“Mr. Wasden, my name is Will Grigg,” I replied, shaking his hand. “Several years ago you tried to put a 66-year-old retired nun named Carol Asher in prison for fourteen years because she acted as a conscientious juror. Have you ever apologized to her for that abuse of discretion?”

This is an excellent article. Please click through to read it in its entirety.

While we do not dispense legal advice, we observe that jurors are not required to justify the reason for their votes when seated on a jury. There is no need to bring up the idea of jury nullification during deliberations, especially if others in the room seem hostile to the idea of independent jurors. If a juror is reported to the judge to be discussing nullification, she or he may be removed from the jury, depriving the defendant of a fully informed juror. Beyond that, she or he may be targeted for harassment and bullying from the government as in the case of Carol Asher. On the other hand, courts have ruled that a juror may not be removed for expressing doubt about the defendant’s guilt.

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 28 Dec 2012

FREEDOM FRIDAY: JURY NULLIFICATION ON PATRIOT’S LAMENT RADIO SHOW

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This week’s Freedom Friday video features Alaska radio show “Patriot’s Lament” with several guests, including FIJA State Contact Joshua Bennett, discussing Lysander Spooner’s work on jury nullification, including its application to criminal charges against abolitionists accused of aiding fugitive slaves in violation of the law of the era. This video is just the audio track from the show coupled with a still photo so you can easily listen while working on something else.

You can learn more about Lysander Spooner’s work in our online Library, or by purchasing The Lysander Spooner Reader or an excerpt of Spooner’s essay Trial by Jury from our Media Catalog.

To suggest a video you’d like us to share on Freedom Friday, please send us e-mail at aji@fija.org.

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Function of Juries | 27 Dec 2012

Jack Klugman, Last of the 12 Angry Men, Dies at Age 90

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And then there were none… Jack Klugman, last of the 12 Angry Men, dies aged 90

American actor Jack Klugman passed away at the age of 90 on 25 December. Among many other accomplishments, he is notable for his role as Juror #5 and having been the last surviving cast member of the original 1957 film edition of “12 Angry Men”.

This classic movie reminds us of the power and importance of a single juror’s vote and voice in ensuring liberty and justice for all. If you haven’t seen this film, we suggest you check it out. A screening with family and friends is a great opportunity to introduce others to the tradition role of the independent juror in our justice system!

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FIJA in the News & Jury Nullification | 20 Dec 2012

Jurors Shouldn’t Wait for States to Nullify!

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Jury nullification and FIJA get a nice mention in this article in The Guardian Express about state nullification.
Can States Nullify Federal Law?

Juries have the right to nullify bad laws by finding a person accused of violating a bad law not guilty. Famous cases of jury nullification included an abolitionist accused of harboring fugitive slaves, and more recently a state-registered user of legal medical marijuana accused under federal law of possessing marijuana. Judging the law as well as the accused is one of the reasons we have trails by jury.

Richard Michael, a common law advocate, is quoted in the article explaining the power of jury nullification:

Nullification on the State level is one thing. That takes a lot of popular support. The most effective thing that the people can do is to use their own nullification power when they sit on juries and grand juries. ( See http://fija.org/ ) When government attacks individuals through the legal system, those individuals are virtually defenseless. The inability of the government to convict people because of the refusal of juries to cooperate during the Prohibition Era lead directly to the end of those laws.

Click through for the entire article.

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Volunteer | 18 Dec 2012

NJWeedman – Jury Nullification Tour

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We want to let you know about Ed Forchion/NJWeedman’s Indiegogo fundraiser for a jury nullification tour. NJWeedman is going on the offense, rigging up his weedmobil with cameras/audio and a plan to make a reality show series out of his adventures this spring. For the first segment he will travel from Los Angeles back to New Jersey in early January. On January 17th NJWeedman must appear one more time before Judge Delehey the Burlington County Court, from there he plans on touring the country to promote jury nullification. You can contribute to Ed through his Indiegogo campaign below. As we post this, there are just 64 hours left to go in the campaign, so check it out now if you want to contribute!

(Note that donations to this campaign go directly to Ed. FIJA does not receive these funds and does not issue a tax receipt for any donations made to this campaign.)

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Jury Nullification | 18 Dec 2012

Project for Awesome Video for FIJA

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Any nerdfighters* among us? FIJA has submitted a Project for Awesome (P4A) video! Although charities have to rank in the top five to be “in the money” for this annual fundraising and awareness raising event, we thought this would be another good way to spread the FIJA message. Please click here to vote for us to help get this in front of some new eyes! Our video appears below, but you have to click the preceding link to vote for us as part of P4A.

*Nerdfighters are not people who fight nerds. They are nerds who fight for awesome, and we think fully informed jurors are awesome!

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