Fully Informed Jury Association

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Function of Juries & History of Jury Nullification & Jury Nullification | 06 Sep 2014

-Jurors Wield Power to Judge the Law

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Jury BoxThe Richmond County Daily Journal follows up its Jury Rights Day coverage with an informative and insightful editorial on jurors’ ability to conscientiously acquit via jury nullification.

OUR VIEW: Jurors wield power to judge the law

Jury duty.

It’s the setup to innumerable punchlines, a civic chore that some people dread and many try to avoid.

But jurors hold a special place in society, serving as a final check and balance on government power.

Consider the following scenario: An individual is charged with a victimless crime; a behavior our government formally and forcibly frowns upon, but one that has not injured any person or deprived anyone of property. The defendant faces a serious criminal charge that will result in many years behind bars.

By the letter of the law, the defendant may be guilty. But the jurors believe his or her behavior either shouldn’t be a crime or that the severe punishment for that crime is disproportionate.

Locking that person away may be the correct remedy under the law, but sometimes the law falls fall short of justice. So jurors can — and do — set statute aside and find the defendant not guilty.

Click through to read the entire editorial, and please share this around with family and friends!

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification & Jury Rights Day | 05 Sep 2014

-7 Films for Jury Rights Day

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JRD_dkblue_square_446x444For more than 20 years since founding it in 1991, the Fully Informed Jury Association has celebrated Jury Rights Day as our signature event on September 5 each year. Jury Rights Day commemorates the conscientious acquittal of William Penn, who stood trial in 1670 for violating England’s Conventicle Act by publicly preaching the Quaker religion. Although ordered to do so by the judge in the case and despite being imprisoned without food and water, jurors in this case steadfastly refused to convict Penn. A higher court later ruled with regard to this case that jurors could not be punished for their verdict.

This landmark case firmly grounded in English common law rights that were carried overseas by the colonists, including freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly, as well as the fundamental right of jurors to render a general verdict based on conscience, including setting aside the law when a just verdict requires it. This is most commonly known as jury nullification, and it is the right of all jurors in every court in our country to exercise it to uphold justice still today.

Our first Jury Rights Day was marked by activists across the country spending an hour outside their local courthouses distributing FIJA’s educational literature and answering questions to fully inform as many people as possible. This year we have more than 30 events taking place nationwide to help ensure that everyone has access to fully informed jurors when they need them. If you are not able to make it out to one of these outreach events, or perhaps after you attend one, why not invite a few friends over to celebrate with a movie night? Here are seven films that would be timely for a Jury Rights Day screening, wrapping up with the one that I will be watching this Jury Rights Day.

The Classics
Courageous Mr. Penn/Penn of Pennsylvania
Originally titled Penn of Pennsylvania, this 1940s era black-and-white historical drama starring Clifford Evans and Deborah Kerr depicts the life of William Penn through the founding of the colony of Pennsylvania, including his famous 1670 trial, which is commemorated by Jury Rights Day. It is based on C.E. Vulliamy’s biography of Penn and reportedly was produced as a piece of British propaganda along with a series of other historical dramas to persuade the United States to join Britain in World War II.

I would like to be able to recommend this film wholeheartedly as the quintessential Jury Rights Day flick. But while it is adequate in covering the main points of Penn’s life, especially those related to Jury Rights Day, it falls rather short of what it could be, with characters who seem more like caricatures and a plot that plods along more as if churning out a stream of facts than telling a story. Nonetheless, it is rated 6.2 out of 10 by 65 IMDB users. It’s not unwatchable, and its plot is most apt for Jury Rights Day. If you don’t know the story of William Penn, it will certainly be informative.

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video.

Watch the first ten minutes of the film:

Twelve Angry Men
Nominated for 3 Academy Awards, the classic 1957 film Twelve Angry Men is probably the most well known jury-related film. It consistently ranks on lists of the top films of all time. Lone holdout Juror 8, played by Henry Fonda, refuses to be rushed into rubber-stamping the prosecution of the defendant whose very life rests in the jury’s hands.

This film has some great lessons for potential jurors, including the intensity of the psychology and interpersonal dynamics during deliberations, the need to be skeptical of the prosecution’s case, the gravity of what is at stake for the defendant as compared to the minor inconveniences for jurors, and so on. The story told in this film is an excellent illustration of the message on FIJA’s home page that:
“The primary function of the independent juror is not, as many think, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by government.”

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and YouTube.

View the trailer:

The Ox-Bow Incident
Make it a Henry Fonda double feature by pairing Twelve Angry Men with the Academy Award-nominated 1943 western The Ox-Bow Incident, a film adaptation of the Walter Van Tilberg Clark novel of the same name. There is no jury in this movie; rather, it is a film about just the opposite situation—the sort of “justice” that is delivered at the hands of an emotionally inflamed mob without the conscientious consideration of a jury. It makes a particularly stunning counterpoint shown back to back with Twelve Angry Men.

The film winds up with a stirring and timeless monologue on the law and conscience delivered by Henry Fonda. It is itself worth the price of admission and reads in part:
“Law is a lot more than words you put in a book, or judges or lawyers or sheriffs you hire to carry it out. It’s everything people have ever found out about justice and what’s right and wrong. It’s the very conscience of humanity.”

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video.

View the trailer:


The Modern Dramas
A Time to Kill
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sandra Bullock, this film adaptation of John Grisham’s first novel tells of the trial of a black man in Mississippi accused of murdering two white men who brutally raped and tried to kill his 10-year-old daughter. While some attempt is made by the defense to argue that the defendant was temporarily insane when he killed these men, it is presented more as something with which to give the jury an out rather than a defense that anyone actually believes. Rather, this is the story of a potential jury nullification case.

Usually when people think of jury nullification, they tend to envision the most obvious sorts of cases for conscientious acquittal—victimless offenses in which the state is trying to punish people who may have offended others’ sensibilities through their actions but who have not actually harmed anyone else or their property. In A Time to Kill, we are challenged to consider one of the tougher types of jury nullification cases in which the jury is asked to forgive someone who committed a real crime, but one with extenuating circumstances that might make strictly enforcing the law unjust.

Such cases are less common in real life, but are not unheard of. A few years ago, a jury acquitted a man who openly admitted to punching an elderly priest. In that case, the defendant said that he had only intended to confront the priest about sexual abuse he had inflicted on the man in his childhood, but things got heated and he lost control. A Time to Kill can open a conversation about the delicate balance between justice and mercy that jurors are asked to strike in unusual cases like these.

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video and YouTube.

View the trailer:

American Violet
American Violet is a 2009 dramatization of the real life story of Regina Kelly, winner of the ACLU’s Roger N. Baldwin Award for Liberty and one of scores of people arrested and charged in mass sweeps of poor neighborhoods, largely populated by people of color, in the town of Hearne, Texas. Falsely accused of being involved in drug trade, protagonist Dee Roberts is pressured to take a plea bargain even though she has done nothing wrong. Instead, she risks her freedom and her family and opts to fight back against the malicious and racist prosecutor’s office with the help of the ACLU not only in criminal court, but civil court as well.

This film is not so much about jury rights as it is a way to sensitize us all before we serve as jurors to the high pressure tactics used by prosecutors to get convictions, even against innocent people. When we sit on a criminal jury, we should have some idea of the dramatic odds against the defendant even being in the same room with us to begin with. More than 90% of criminal cases are settled without a jury, often with defendants pressured into plea bargains with threats ranging from more and more charges being piled up until they crack to the possibility of losing their kids forever. If they lose at trial, defendants may see prosecutors requesting particularly harsh penalties based in part on their assertion of their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to trial by jury, with the rationale that asking for a jury trial is evidence that they are not sufficiently remorseful about their offense to deserve mercy.

Jurors are often unhappy to be stuck in court being treated as herd animals and getting a pittance in compensation. Perhaps they were going on vacation this weekend. Or they don’t want to miss anymore work and have to catch up on it. Maybe there is a football game they want to get out of court in time to see. They may be in a hurry to do whatever it takes just to end the trial one way or another because it is an inconvenience. But I assure you that practically any inconvenience we face as jurors is NOTHING in comparison to the severe damage we can inflict in the lives of not only the defendant, but also the defendant’s loved ones and community if we do not give due consideration to our role in judging the facts of a case as well as the fairness of the law as it is applied in the case before us. American Violet helps illuminate just what is at stake.

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video and YouTube.

View the trailer:


The Documentaries
Bidder 70
In 2008 Tim DeChristopher disrupted a highly disputed Bureau of Land Management auction open only to certain corporate bidders for oil and gas leases, which the federal government itself would later invalidate as unlawful, of 116 parcels of public land in Utah’s red rock country. Outside the building where the auction was held, he felt that his efforts to stop it were insufficient so he ventured inside to see what more he could do. There he was invited to register as bidder 70 in the auction and won several parcels before the auction was shut down. Although it would later be invalidated as an illegal auction, DeChristopher would nonetheless be indicted for his conscientious act of civil disobedience. He pleaded Not Guilty to two victimless felony counts for violation of the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act and making false statements, choosing to take his case before a jury in hopes that they would consult their consciences and acquit him.

The term “kangaroo court” would not be too strong for this trial. The defense was:
-forbidden from arguing a necessity defense that DeChristopher was faced with choosing between two evils and that his actions resulted in the lesser of the two to avoid imminent harm where no legal alternative was available,
-forbidden from informing the jury that the lease auction itself was deemed unlawful,
-forbidden from informing the jury that DeChristopher had raised sufficient funds for an initial payment to the BLM (which the BLM refused to accept),
-forbidden from presenting a case to the jury that DeChristopher’s motives were grounded in his moral convictions, and
-forbidden from informing the jury about other cases in which bidders did not pay for pay for oil leases they won but were not prosecuted the way DeChristopher was selectively prosecuted.

Bidder 70 includes quite a bit of material explaining how and why the role of the independent jury was so shamelessly circumvented by the prosecutor and judge. Included on the DVD but not in any of the streaming versions I found is a post-theatrical opening question and answer session with DeChristopher. This is worth looking up on YouTube as DeChristopher gets into great detail on why the prosecutor was desperate to exclude jurors who might have been influenced by FIJA literature that was being distributed outside the courthouse. In Q&A DeChristopher makes the point that:
“I saw this huge power of conscience because at the same time I saw that any atrocity would be possible if people let go of their conscience, I also saw the U.S. attorney freaking out about this notion. He was representing the United States of America. He had the entire power of the United States behind him. That’s the power he represented, and he felt vulnerable to the power of citizens using their conscience. He felt like citizens exercising their conscience, when exercising their moral duties, that could undermine all the power that he represented. And so it was like these two extremes hinging on the power of conscience—that when people let go of their own moral agency, any atrocity was possible, but when people held onto their moral agency and had faith in the power of their conscience, that there was no power and no institution which couldn’t be affected by that.”
Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sy-2WAvAHo

I often come across people who seem to want to have the courage to nullify unjust prosecutions, but who seem unwilling to do it without the government’s clear stamp of approval on jurors refusing to enforce the government’s own laws. To quote one of my favorite science fiction outlaws, Malcolm Reynolds, “That’s a long wait for a train don’t come.” There is just no incentive for government to give its subjects permission to disobey or refuse to enforce its laws. And that is why we have juries. They are to be an independent body that is not merely an agent of government but an outside arbiter of facts and law. There are many valuable words of wisdom in both the movie and the additional Q&A session about the need for jurors to act from conscience rather than abandoning their moral compass and mindlessly doing the bidding of the government.

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and YouTube.

View the trailer:

After you see the film, come back and check out the Q&A session post-NYC theatrical opening:

The Camden 28
“What do you do when a child’s on fire? We saw children on fire. What do you do when a child’s on fire in a war that was a mistake? What do you do? Like write a letter?” With these questions, Father Michael Doyle opens the documentary entitled The Camden 28. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan called this trial “one of the great trials of the 20th Century.” But have you heard of the 1973 trial of the Camden 28 Vietnam War protesters who broke into a draft office to destroy files of those being called up to fight in Vietnam? Most people have never heard of this remarkable case that began with every defendant openly affirming to their jury that they committed the acts of which they were accused and ended in mass acquittals on all charges against them.

This Anthony Giacchino film draws on historical documentation as well as modern day interviews of some of those involved in the Camden 28 trial to tell the story of the first anti-war trial of the Vietnam era to result in jury nullifications. Giacchino skillfully weaves together the intricate threads of this story from the planning and execution of this peace action, to its connections to other peace actions of the era such as the infamous Media, Pennsylvania burglary that exposed the FBI’s COINTELPRO agenda, to the mysterious informant who played a dramatic and surprising role in both their capture and the case in court.

The trial of the Camden 28 was remarkable not only in the overwhelming message sent by the jury through its Not Guilty verdicts, but also in the wide latitude allowed by the judge to tell the story as the jury needed to hear it in order to come to their verdicts. It is clear from motions in limine in modern day Plowshares trials of anti-war activists that prosecutors have studied the Camden 28 trial and know what information they must prevent the jury from having access to in order to secure convictions in these types of cases.

The Camden 28 is the film that I will be watching this Jury Rights Day. It is nothing short of a revelation of how our jury system was meant to work, and of how a healthy jury system operates. If you had told me a decade ago that I would one day be passionate about jury rights, I’d have thought you were off your rocker. But to see in action the extraordinary power of a few ordinary people to protect human rights and human life, to see their power to help steer the course of history away from a trajectory of great injustice, to know that we once had this and could again practically overnight if we would each claim our right of conscience and exercise it—that is what makes me passionate about juries, and I hope that it does you as well.

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video and Netflix.

Trailer:

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Jury Nullification & Jury Rights Day | 05 Sep 2014

-Jury Rights Day: Jury Nullification Outreach in Asheville, North Carolina

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We’ve got our first report from the field today. This comes from Charlie Sean reporting on some very successful jury nullification outreach at the Buncombe County Courthouse in Asheville, North Carolina:

Todd (Freedom Fighterswnc), Jason Humes and I met up with Betty Jackson and Clarence Young from Fully Informed Jury Association at Buncombe County Courthouse in downtown ‪#‎Asheville‬ to educate and inform people about ‪#‎jurorsrights‬

Shortly after we started handing out literature, officers from the Buncombe County Sheriffs Office came out in an attempt to silence our ‪#‎firstamendment‬ right to ‪#‎assembly‬ and ‪#‎freespeech‬. We were polite but firm and reminded them that what we were doing was within the law and made them go show us the laws that we were allegedly breaking.

When they discovered that they could not stop us from handing out literature, they left Betty and Clarence alone and we successfully handed out nearly all of our ‪#‎FIJA‬ literature. Another win for ‪#‎liberty‬

Photos by Sean (NCFreedomFighters/Blue Ridge Liberty Project)

Check out some of their fabulous work!
Jury nullification outreach in Asheville NC on Jury Rights Day 2014

Jury nullification outreach in Asheville NC on Jury Rights Day 2014

Jury nullification outreach in Asheville NC on Jury Rights Day 2014

Jury nullification outreach in Asheville NC on Jury Rights Day 2014

Jury nullification outreach in Asheville NC on Jury Rights Day 2014

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification & Jury Rights Day | 05 Sep 2014

-Jury Nullification Keeps Government in Check

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JRD_dkblue_square_446x444FIJA New Hampshire State Contact Dick Marple is educating New Hampshire today about jury nullification and Jury Rights Day with this informative editorial in the Concord Monitor. Thank you, Dick!

My Turn: Jury nullification keeps government in check

Today, we celebrate Jury Rights Day.

It was on this day in 1670 that Quaker William Penn of London was arrested, pleaded not guilty and subsequently argued against England’s Conventicle Acts, which outlawed the practice of religions other than the Church of England.

The judge instructed the jurors to find Penn guilty, but they refused to enforce a bad law. The court retaliated by jailing the jurors and withholding food and water.

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

Click through for the entire article

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Function of Juries & History of Jury Nullification & Jury Nullification & Jury Rights Day | 05 Sep 2014

-When Jurors Judge the Law

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JRD_yellow_square_445x446Jury Rights Day and specifically the outreach event in Asheville are getting some news coverage in North Carolina! Richmond County Daily Journal reporter William Toler has written up an excellent article on the occasion:

When Jurors Judge the Law

Despite being fined and imprisoned, a jury refused to follow the judge’s order to return a guilty verdict against William Penn.

It is this landmark case from September 1670 that is celebrated each Sept. 5 as Jury Rights Day.

This year there are 30 events nationwide, including one in Asheville, informing jurors on the right to “render a general verdict based on conscience, including setting aside the law when a just verdict requires it,” according to Kirsten Tynan, executive director of the Fully Informed Jury Association.

Click through to read the entire article.

If you are in the Asheville, North Carolina area today, don’t miss Jury Rights Day outreach at the Buncombe County Courthouse!

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Jury Nullification & Jury Rights Day & Volunteer | 04 Sep 2014

-Online Volunteer Training for Courthouse Outreach

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San Diego jury nullification outreachWill you be doing courthouse outreach tomorrow on Jury Rights Day? Are you or are you planning to be involved in an ongoing courthouse outreach campaign? We have put together a brief training video, just under a half hour long, that we invite you to review before you go out.

Doing FIJA outreach at courthouses is a pretty low risk activity. Last Jury Rights Day, activists did outreach at a couple dozen courthouses around the country without incident. Still, some people have run afoul of the law while handing out FIJA literature, usually because they were not following FIJA’s guidelines. We don’t want this to happen to anyone!

There are no lawyers on FIJA’s staff and we do not give any legal advice. We do not provide legal counsel for anyone or fund anyone’s legal defense in the event they get into legal trouble while distributing FIJA literature. What sort of outreach you choose to do is up to you, and it is your responsibility not to engage in any activities which you are not comfortable with. If you don’t feel comfortable with courthouse outreach, there are plenty of other ways you can do outreach, and we’d be happy to help you find activities that are a better fit for you.

That said, for those who are ready to head down to their local courthouse and start reaching out to their community, this video is provided to share our observations from years of courthouse outreach all over the country on how to be safe and effective in your outreach work. We hope these help you to stay safe and do effective outreach to create more fully informed jurors!

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FIJA Calendar & Jury Nullification & Volunteer | 29 Aug 2014

-Utah Juror Educators Training in Salt Lake City

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If you are in or near Salt Lake City this weekend, please join us for juror outreach training and organizing for Jury Rights Day outreach events.

Utah Juror Educators Training
Saturday, 30 August 2014, 3:00 pm Mountain
Salt Lake City Library
Conference Room A
210 E 400 S
Salt Lake City, UT

Kirsten Tynan of the FIJA will be conducting a training for volunteers who wish to do juror education outreach, with a special focus on how to do this at courthouses. Among the topics covered will be the difference between jury tampering and general educational outreach, as well as how to stay clearly on the general educational outreach side of the fence and avoid harassment from courthouse officials. We will be in Conference Room A, which is located beneath the library’s main foyer. The room is accessible using the foyer staircase (down the stairs and to your left) or you can use the elevator next to the library’s auditorium.

Click here to join the Facebook page for this event.


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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification & Jury Rights Day | 27 Aug 2014

-FIJA Educates about Jury Nullification on Jury Rights Day

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Fully Informed Jury Association Educates about Jury Nullification on Jury Rights Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FIJA Logo with URL
CONTACT:

Kirsten Tynan
(406) 442-7800
aji@fija.org

Helena, MT—Jurors’ rights educators around the country, in conjunction with the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), will celebrate Jury Rights Day on September 5 by educating their communities about jury nullification. Founded in 1991, Jury Rights Day is FIJA’s signature celebration, annually commemorating the conscientious acquittal of William Penn in 1670 that firmly grounded in common law jurors’ right to vote Not Guilty when a just verdict requires it, even if the law has technically been broken.

This year marks the 344th anniversary of the day when jurors refused to convict William Penn of breaking England’s Conventicle Act, despite clear evidence that he was in violation by publicly preaching a Quaker sermon. In refusing to convict Penn, the jurors refused to enforce what they knew to be unjust law, even when directed by the judge to return a Guilty verdict, and even when imprisoned for their act of conscience. Refusal to deliver a Guilty verdict when jurors are aware that the law has technically been broken is known as jury nullification.

“Today jurors still have the right and the responsibility to deliver general verdicts according to their consciences, and they cannot be punished for their verdicts,” said FIJA Executive Director Kirsten Tynan. “Law exists for the purpose of safeguarding justice. Justice is not to be violated or repudiated in the interest of technically upholding an unjust law. When law and justice come into conflict, justice must prevail. The Fully Informed Jury Association teaches that jurors are empowered to uphold justice in such cases, by setting aside the law and voting Not Guilty when a just verdict requires it,” said Tynan.

Jurors who were punished for their verdict in Penn’s case appealed to a higher court for relief. Chief Justice John Vaughan ruled in their favor and reversed their penalties, firmly establishing in English common law, not only jurors’ right to conscientiously acquit, but also providing a firm foundation for freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly. The founders of the United States purposely protected all of these rights when establishing the American legal system.

FIJA New Hampshire state contact Dick Marple receives a 2013 Jury Appreciation Day proclamation from Governor Maggie Wood Hassan.

FIJA New Hampshire state contact Dick Marple receives a 2013 Jury Appreciation Day proclamation from Governor Maggie Wood Hassan.

FIJA hosted the very first Jury Rights Day on September 5, 1991, rallying activists around the country to spend an hour handing out jury nullification literature in their local communities. The tradition continues this year with individuals and organizations hosting events across the country handing out educational materials everywhere from courthouses to county fairs, speaking to local groups, holding press conferences, etc.

Activists will also carry on the tradition of requesting Jury Rights Day proclamations from their local public servants. Past Jury Rights Days have been commemorated with proclamations from governors and other public officials in New Hampshire, Alaska, Connecticut, Iowa, and elsewhere.
On this day of celebration and commemoration, juror educators hope to create many fully informed jurors who understand and are prepared to act on the knowledge that:
-Jurors cannot be punished for their verdicts.
-Jurors have the right to deliver a general verdict and are not required to explain the reason for their verdict.
-Jurors have the legal authority and the ethical duty to consult their consciences and to render a just verdict, even if it requires setting aside the law to do so.

About the Fully Informed Jury Association
FIJA is a non-profit, educational association dedicated to informing the general public about their full rights, powers, and responsibilities in delivering just verdicts as trial jurors. The organization publishes and distributes educational literature, which anyone can receive by calling 1-800-TEL-JURY, 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.

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 14 Aug 2014

-Questions for Legislative Candidates about Jury Nullification and Jurors’ Rights

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GavelIconBecause yesterday’s set of questions for judicial candidates was so popular, we asked FIJA co-founder and board member Don Doig to please write up a similar list of suggested questions for legislative candidates. We share his response here for anyone who is interested in quizzing their local legislative candidates about jury nullification and related court issues. This is shared for educational purposes only; FIJA National do not endorse or oppose any political candidate or party.

Don Doig replies, with an introductory statement followed by questions:

The Rule of Law as understood by the Founders was in place to protect the rights of the people. Central to the Rule of Law is trial by jury, as traditionally understood. In an age when people feel that their rights are increasingly threatened, more people are looking to resurrect a fully empowered and fully informed jury as a safeguard of the rights of the people. For hundreds of years it was understood that trial by jury was in place to protect people against arbitrary power and abusive laws. In recent decades trial by jury has been under attack, as piece by piece, important powers and protections have been eroded. As a result, jurors are less able to extend a helping hand to people who need some protection from persecution.

Justice Goodloe said,

According to the doctrine of jury nullification, jurors have the inherent right to set aside the instructions of the judge and to reach a verdict of acquittal based upon their own consciences. As abolitionist lawyer Lysander Spooner explained the doctrine in Trial By Jury in 1852, page one:
“For more than six hundred years – that is, since Magna Carta, in 1215 – there has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law, than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what was the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also their right, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge of the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such laws.”

For a history by Justice William C. Goodloe, see Jury Nullification: Empowering the Jury as the Fourth Branch of Government (.doc).

“It is not only his right [the juror’s], but his duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience even though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.”
-John Adams, first proponent of the Declaration of Independence and Second President, 1771
2 Life And Works of John Adams 253-255 (C.F. Adams ed. 1856)

As a candidate for the legislature, I respectfully ask if you would please answer a few questions pertinent to this abuse and denial of due process.

Would you support or sponsor legislation providing for the ability of the defense to explain to the jury that under our jury system jurors are judges of both law and fact? That they have the power to vote according to conscience, and vote “not guilty” if they believe justice requires it, regardless of the law and the evidence?

Would you support or sponsor legislation requiring judges to tell the jury that they have the power to vote according to conscience, and vote “not guilty” if they believe justice requires it, regardless of the law and the evidence?

Would you support or sponsor legislation requiring the voir dire jury selection process be limited to eliminating prospective jurors who have a direct personal conflict of interest in the case or who think they cannot be fair. In particular, questions pertaining to political or social or religious opinions, or a willingness to vote according to conscience should be prohibited.

Would you support or sponsor legislation prohibiting plea bargains? Require prosecutors to charge reasonably such that an informed jury might be expected to convict, and not multiply charges.

Would you support or sponsor legislation to prohibit motions in limine or other restrictions on what defendants may say, or what evidence they may present?

Would you support or sponsor legislation requiring the prosecution to provide any exculpatory evidence they may have to the defense?

Would you support or sponsor legislation that all jury trials be held with 12 jurors, and all crimes, even misdemeanors, get a jury trial if the defendant wishes?

Would you support or sponsor legislation requiring any forfeiture actions go before a jury as a criminal charge against an individual? (No more charges against property, which is not presumed to be innocent.)

Would you support or sponsor legislation requiring that all criminal trial jury verdicts be unanimous? (Particularly needed in Oregon and Louisiana, where trial by jury has been diminished by non-unanimous verdicts.)

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 13 Aug 2014

-Questions for Judicial Candidates about Jury Nullification and Jurors’ Rights

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GavelIconWe recently had an inquiry from someone with 3 judges up for election in his area. He asked if we had any suggestions for hard-hitting questions to see if the candidates love liberty and the Constitution. FIJA co-founder and board member Don Doig provided the following response, which we share here for anyone else who is interested in quizzing their local candidates about jury nullification and related court issues. This is shared for educational purposes only; FIJA National do not endorse or oppose any political candidate or party.

Don Doig replies:

Here are some questions, prefaced by an introductory statement.

Justice Goodloe said,

According to the doctrine of jury nullification, jurors have the inherent right to set aside the instructions of the judge and to reach a verdict of acquittal based upon their own consciences. As abolitionist lawyer Lysander Spooner explained the doctrine in Trial By Jury in 1852, page one:
“For more than six hundred years – that is, since Magna Carta, in 1215 – there has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law, than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what was the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also their right, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge of the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such laws.”

For a history by Justice William C. Goodloe, see Jury Nullification: Empowering the Jury as the Fourth Branch of Government (.doc).

“It is not only his right [the juror’s], but his duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience even though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.”
-John Adams, first proponent of the Declaration of Independence and Second President, 1771
2 Life And Works of John Adams 253-255 (C.F. Adams ed. 1856)

Do you agree that jurors have the right to vote their conscience?

Would you be willing to tell the jury that while you will explain to them what the law is, nevertheless they have the right to vote not guilty regardless of the evidence?

Would you be willing to allow the defense to argue to the jury that they may vote according to their conscience?

Would you be willing to allow the defense to argue against the merits of the law?

Should the defense be allowed to present whatever evidence they want to the jury?

Should the prosecutor be required to give the defense access to any exculpatory evidence?

Should the jury be told what sentence the defendant will face if convicted?

Will you or do you seek to eliminate jurors from the pool based on their understanding of jury nullification?

Will you or do you tell jurors that they must follow the law as you explain it?

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Function of Juries & Jurors Doing Justice & Jury Nullification | 06 Aug 2014

-Jury Trial for Philly Mom Prosecuted for Gun in New Jersey

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IMG_1132cropIt appears that the case of Shaneen Allen, a Philadelphia woman arrested when she reportedly carried a firearm legally owned in Pennsylvania into New Jersey and was pulled over for a traffic violation, is headed toward trial. Ms. Allen is a mother of two who purchased a handgun for personal protection after being robbed twice. She holds a concealed carry permit that is honored in 30 other states outside of Pennsylvania. Neighboring New Jersey, however, turns out not to be one of those states.

Judge denies motion to dismiss case against Philly mom arrested for legal gun in NJ

A New Jersey judge denied a motion to dismiss charges Tuesday against a Philadelphia mother who mistakenly entered New Jersey, where she was stopped for a traffic violation and found in possession of a handgun loaded with hollow-point bullets.

Shaneen Allen, 27, who is legally permitted to carry a concealed firearm in Pennsylvania, was pulled over in New Jersey’s Atlantic County after making an unsafe lane change in the early morning hours of Oct. 1. She told the officer she had a .380 Berse Thunder handgun during the traffic stop.

Superior Court Judge Michael Donio also denied a motion to overturn a decision not to allow Allen to participate in a pretrial intervention program to avoid jail time.

Allen rejected a prosecutor’s offer to serve 3 1/2 years in prison, her attorney, Evan Nappen, told FoxNews.com.

“That’s exactly what should be the solution here,” Nappen said, referring to the intervention program. “So we’re looking forward to that jury trial.”

A trial date has been set for Oct. 6, said Nappen, who feels his client may find more leniency from jurors.

“I sure do, it’s an incredibly sympathetic case that shouldn’t have to go to trial,” he said. “But I’m confident that 12 ordinary people who understand the injustice here and will correct it.”

Read more about Shaneen Allen’s case here:
‘Honest mistake’ leads to Philly mother facing three years on gun charge
Philly Mom Facing Jail Time for Possessing Licensed Gun
Shaneen Allen, Race, and Gun Control

This case sounds very much like the case of Jonathan Ryan, a Florida landscaper acquitted by a jury of gun charges in New York City, leveled against him after he errantly turned right on a red light in Manhattan. During the traffic stop, it came to light that he had mistakenly left a firearm, legally owned and registered in Florida, in his truck when he drove up from Florida to help his girlfriend move. Ryan faced 3 1/2 years in prison if convicted. Even though he acknowledged having the gun, he argued to the jury that he had put it in the truck more than two years ago and it was an honest mistake that he had forgotten it.

Read about Ryan’s case here:
Florida Landscaper Acquitted of NYC Gun Charges

As bureaucratic regulations proliferate from state to state, it is more and more likely that peaceful people will find themselves in prosecutors’ crosshairs, being maliciously prosecuted for victimless offenses as they try to navigate the bureaucratic morass of firearms-related regulations and restrictions. While gun control advocates often argue that ignorance of the intricate legal web they have created is no excuse for making an honest mistake, even those who staunchly support strict gun controls are being caught up by the very same regulations that they advocated.

Consider the case of Dwayne Ferguson, a Buffalo, New York activist well-known locally for his efforts in pushing for passage of New York’s SAFE Act. This measure bumped carrying a gun on school grounds, which was already classified as a crime, from a misdemeanor to a felony. Ferguson was arrested on an elementary school campus, where he was found to be carrying a pistol that he legally owned. He says that he simply forgot he had the weapon on his person when he entered the gun-free zone where he mentors disadvantaged students.

Read about Ferguson’s case here:
Gun Control Advocate Arrested for Gun Offense to Go Before a Jury

Allen was initially accepted into a pretrial program which would have allowed her to avoid felony charges and incarceration, but the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s office reportedly put a stop to that option for her, instead choosing to make an example of her and prosecute her aggressively. Pine Brook resident Pete Sesnick points out the disturbing double standard and two-tiered system of “justice” administered by the Atlantic City Prosecutor’s office that used its prosecutorial discretion to allow a sports celebrity to avoid trial for charges of a violent crime:

LETTER: Prosecutor gave Ray Rice preferential treatment

When confronted with virtually irrefutable evidence that NFL star Ray Rice beat his then fiancée into unconsciousness in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino, Atlantic County Prosecutor James McClain, through his magnanimous tolerance and generosity, allowed Rice to enter a pretrial intervention program, thus avoiding jail time. And if Rice stays out of trouble for a period of time, he’ll have his record expunged. Darn kind and understanding of the prosecutor, but there’s a larger tragedy associated with the Ray Rice domestic abuse incident.

[Ms. Allen] was arrested in Atlantic County. And we have evidence that the Atlantic County Prosecutor is a kind, tolerant and generous man. After all, he allowed an NFL celebrity, guilty of domestic abuse, to enter the pretrial intervention program. Surely, he would extend the same courtesy to a young mother of two, who hadn’t committed an act of violence and had no criminal history.

Furthermore, the director of the PTI program agreed to admit Allen into the program. Well, it turns out that Prosecutor McClain is not as tolerant of non-celebrity single moms as he is of celebrity, NFL, domestic abusers. He will not allow Shaneen to enter PTI. McClain is apparently determined to send her to prison.

Allen’s attorney, Evan Nappen points out that if the prosecutor’s office won’t see reason and treat his client justly, jurors still have the opportunity to protect her through their legal authority of jury nullification.

Philadelphia mother whose legal gun got her arrested in NJ hopes for leniency

Allen purchased the gun for protection after being robbed twice in the past year, she said, adding that she never even fired it and feels somewhat snake-bitten by the entire ordeal.

“It’s definitely a freak thing,” she said. “I was trying to do a good thing and it turned out so bad — and just like that. I don’t know how to explain it, I really don’t.”

Allen reiterated that she immediately told the officer she had a gun in her 2007 Chevrolet sedan, as well as a concealed carry permit for neighboring Pennsylvania.

“The officer knew there was a gun there, she was completely honest and open,” her attorney, Evan Nappen, said. “There are no aggravating factors in this case; she’s a single mom of two, working in the medical field who was robbed twice and that’s what inspired her to get a gun license in the first place.”

Nappen said potential jurors could invoke jury nullification, a constitutional doctrine allowing juries to acquit defendants who are technically guilty, but don’t deserve to be punished. It can apply in all states, but attorneys are generally not permitted to introduce the concept to jurors.

FIJA does not advocate for or against any case in progress, but we do general educational outreach wherever we have volunteers willing and able to educate their communities. If anyone is interested in doing general educational outreach in the southern New Jersey area, such as hosting a Jury Rights Day event and other outreach, we are looking to put together a volunteer group to start a juror education campaign. Activists are already planning to be out pamphleting at the courthouse from 6-10 October. Please contact us at 406-442-7800, aji@fija.org, or on Facebook by messaging the New Jersey FIJA Facebook page.

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 28 Jul 2014

-How to Make Sure What Happened to Aaron Swartz Doesn’t Happen Again

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Jury BoxWe’ve previously discussed the death of activist Aaron Swartz and the malicious tactics by which he and others have been pressured to forfeit their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to trial by jury. So we greatly appreciate the following article written by David Segal educating even more people how fully informed jurors can make a difference to individuals and their communities.

How to Make Sure What Happened to Aaron Swartz Doesn’t Happen Again

[Aaron Swartz] fell prey to a criminal justice system that has recently prominently pursued, or sought to pursue, the prosecution of activists like Barrett Brown, Jeremy Hammond, and Cecily MacMillan, as well as whistleblowers like Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden. And we mustn’t forget, of course, that it regularly commits to prison thousands upon thousands of people whose names don’t make headlines and aren’t carried hundreds of miles via IRC channels or Twitter, or on the still-potent winds of the Occupy network—and are disproportionately poor people and people of color. It is structural racism epitomized.

All of the above feeds a daunting, seemingly intractable problem: 2.3 million Americans are behind bars, but there is little sign of meaningful revision to the structures that have trapped them there. Yet we needn’t entrust our hopes for reform to risk-averse politicians who fear their constituents’ reactions and, sometimes of greater bearing, those of their underwriters in the private prison industry. We can take matters into our own hands, by engaging in conscientious jury nullification—and perhaps force a reorientation of the entire criminal justice system.

Earlier this month, as I sat on a panel following the Washington, DC premier of The Internet’s Own Boy, a questioner asked what single act an individual could undertake to help make sure what happened to Aaron never happens again.

I’ve heard that question posed what seems like hundreds of times in the year and a half since Aaron’s passing. There’s a natural desire to divine the germ of something constructive out of such seemingly senseless tragedy. But I’ve only now formulated what feels like a satisfying answer, one deeper than encouraging people to sign up for activist email alerts or call a member of Congress. (While these tactics can of course be essential in the right places and at the right times, they are determinative of political outcomes only when part of mass actions.)

Here it is: targeted jury nullification.

This is a well-written article, worth clicking through for the entire write up.

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FIJA Calendar & Jury Nullification & Volunteer | 25 Jul 2014

-Learn About Jury Nullification in Spokane

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Join The Fully Informed Jury Association and The Human Solution
on Saturday 2 August at 1:00 pm
in Conference Room 1A
at the Downtown Branch public library in Spokane, WA

At this presentation, which is free and open to the public, you will learn about jurors’ right of conscientious acquittal and how jury nullification can be used to protect peaceful people from unjust prosecutions in marijuana-related cases. Even though marijuana has largely been legalized in Washington, people are still being prosecuted for victimless, marijuana-related offenses. Jury nullification helped end alcohol prohibition in just thirteen years!

Included in the talk is a volunteer training session. We are looking to kick off a long-term juror education campaign in Spokane, so please join us!

Join the Facebook event page here.


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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification & Media Releases | 23 Jul 2014

-Jury Nullification Billboard Educates Valley Residents of Jurors’ Secret Power

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23 July 2014

Jury Nullification Billboard Debuts to Educate Valley Residents of Jurors’ Secret Power

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FIJA Logo with URL
CONTACT:
Kirsten Tynan
(406) 442-7800
aji@fija.org

James Babb
(610) 574-1222
jamesbabb@mac.com

Phoenix, AZ—This week marks the start of an initial 8-week run of a billboard in Phoenix, Arizona at the Jefferson Street/1st Avenue Light Rail Station, designed to educate the community about jury nullification.

Also referred to as conscientious acquittal or juror veto, jury nullification is a traditional, legal authority of jurors to judge the law as well as the facts in any case they hear. Jurors can vote Not Guilty when they conscientiously believe a just verdict requires it, even if they believe the law has technically been broken.

“If you are selected for jury duty, the normal instinct is to find a way out of it. That is completely understandable, especially if you don’t understand the incredible opportunity you have as a juror to stop wrongful imprisonment and government tyranny,” said project facilitator James Babb.

Funded through crowd-sourced donations contributed by activists around the country and sponsored by Freedom’s Phoenix, who hosted the fundraising effort at FreedomsPhoenix.com, the billboard builds on the initial success of Babb’s efforts last fall that placed billboards in the Judiciary Square metro station in Washington, D.C. On October 29, 2013, The Washington Post reported that D.C. prosecutors were so upset by the educational billboards that they were asking judges to ensure jurors were not influenced by the information they provided.

FIJA-PhoenixTransit-2This effort is part of a nationwide educational campaign. Activists are currently working to place billboards in other major cities around the country such as Los Angeles, Seattle, and elsewhere.
Jurors around the world have had the right to conscientiously acquit via jury nullification for centuries. All jurors in the United States have this right still today, but many are completely unaware of it.

“The modern trend of keeping jurors in the dark about their full authority unfortunately has been encouraged by a series of court rulings enabling judges to refrain from informing or even to misinform jurors about their options,” said Kirsten Tynan, executive director of the Fully Informed Jury Association. “Jurors are not required to check their consciences at the courthouse door, but they will not hear this once they are inside. In fact, a prospective juror who, if asked during voir dire, will not agree to abandon their conscience and uphold law they find unjust or unjustly applied will almost certainly be excluded from the jury,” Tynan said.

Ernest Hancock of Freedom’s Phoenix explained the timeliness of this message in Phoenix. “Arizona has been a hotbed of FIJA activism since the early 1990’s,” said Hancock. “Ours was the first state to have a legislative body pass fully informed juror legislation. Continued public education has created a foundation from which to launch another wave of public awareness and to insert jury rights into the public debate,” he explained.

The initial billboard run will encompass Jury Rights Day, celebrated each year on September 5. Founded by the Fully Informed Jury Association in 1991, Jury Rights Day commemorates the famous case of jury nullification in 1670 in which English jurors refused a judge’s order to convict William Penn for publicly preaching the Quaker religion. Even though they were imprisoned for their verdict, several jurors in this case steadfastly maintained their refusal to convict.

By reversing their sentences, a higher court firmly established in English common law not only jurors’ right to conscientiously acquit, but also freedoms of speech and religion. The founders of the United States preserved all of these rights in the new government they designed. Americans enjoy them still today as part of the Constitutional system designed to keep government power in check.

About the Fully Informed Jury Association
FIJA is a 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.

About Freedom’s Phoenix
Freedom’s Phoenix is a multi-media news and opinion platform from a voluntarist and libertarian perspective. The organization maintains a website at FreedomsPhoenix.com as a daily resource for current and relevant political news.

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 09 Jul 2014

-Jury Nullification Educator’s Case Continues

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Jury BoxWe have an update on the Luke Lamb case, which had an 18 June 2014 hearing for the defendant’s Motion to Reconsider his Motion to Dismiss. Lamb is being pursued by Greene County, Illinois officials for alleged unlawful communication with a juror, but his attorney says the charge is a politically-motivated tactic wielded against Lamb who is currently running for Sheriff in Greene County.

Lamb’s attorney previously filed a Motion to Dismiss the charge against his client, and it was denied. He then filed a Motion to Reconsider the previous motion, which was heard on 18 June. This most recent motion was also denied.

A post too far?

Watts, in his May 8 motion to dismiss, says the charge against Lamb fails to allege he intended to influence a juror regarding a specific manner and that because he wasn’t aware of the case being discussed Lamb could not have influenced its decision.

“To find that general advocacy in a public forum about the jury process to a juror by a political candidate, not directed with knowledge toward a specific set of facts, issues and parties, is a violation of the statue, would lead to the absurd conclusion that political demonstrations outside a courthouse, or even outside of the town where the court is located which touch upon the subject matter of specific cases occurring in the court and which are directed to jurors would lead to violations of this statute,” he wrote. “Under the state’s interpretation of the statute, if Mothers Against Drunk Drivers members were sitting at home writing on a juror’s public Facebook wall to “convict drunk drivers!” with no knowledge of the particular case, or whether that juror was even hearing a DUI charge … a violation of the statute would occur.”

In a story that ran in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier and the Telegraph shortly after the charge was filed, Watts said, “Lamb made the first comment in jest” and that the wording on the subsequent post demonstrated “that he was leaving any decision about the individual case up to the juror.”

Watts also challenged the timing of the charge, because Lamb is running against McMillen in the November election as a “constitutional sheriff’s candidate,” and contends Lamb is being targeted because of his past outspoken questioning of authority.

From the article, it appears that the judge in the case is attempting to draw some lines in the sand, albeit confused ones, as to where he thinks general jury nullification education is and is not lawful:

Mark Boston, the juror who posted about his jury duty selection, has told the court he was nowhere near the courthouse when he read Lamb’s online comments. He also said the post had nothing to do with the decision he and other jurors reached in the case.

That, Watts maintains, makes this a matter of someone being prosecuted for exercising his First Amendment right to free speech.

But the court disagreed, saying the constitution did not protect Lamb’s Facebook speech “because that speech was made into the courthouse to a juror, as opposed to outside of the courthouse.”

Watts challenged that in his June 23 motion to reconsider, saying Boston was about 20 miles away from the courthouse and at his home when the exchange took place. Because Boston’s cellphone was turned off while he was in the courthouse, “Lamb’s communications for which he was charged occurred exclusively during times when Boston was approximately 20 miles from the courthouse,” the motion to reconsider read.

Lamb’s next court date is set for October, and at this time he is reportedly seeking a jury trial.

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