Fully Informed Jury Association

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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 05 May 2014

-Asset Forfeiture Circumvents Trial by Jury and Jury Nullification

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Jury BoxWhat is a poor judge to do when the jury sets free an individual he believes is guilty and should be punished, or perhaps when he just wants to funnel more money into the legal system he depends on being packed to maintain his livelihood? Asset forfeiture to the rescue!

Judge approves forfeiture of car, despite not guilty verdict

A Brainerd, Minnesota man who was found not guilty in a burglary at Wakeside Bar and Grill near Hankinson won’t be getting his car back.

Despite the jury’s verdict, a judge has decided that the car will be forfeited to the Richland County Sheriff’s Dept. Adam Bush was arrested last August.

Asset forfeiture is a nefarious tactic, designed to undermine individuals’ rights to due process and trial by jury, especially when prosecutors would have a hard time proving a crime beyond a reasonable doubt or when jurors simply think the law is unjust and are likely to conscientiously acquit by jury nullification. Most commonly, asset forfeiture is described as a process by which law enforcement can seize and financially profit from someone’s property without ever charging them with a crime. The idea is that it is not the individual being accused of a crime, but rather the inanimate objects. Property owners become third party claimants with fewer legally-recognized rights in the legal process and a higher burden of proof to get their property back.

As this case demonstrates, however, it is EVEN MORE ABUSIVE than just that. Government agents can keep property seized this way even if the property owner is ACQUITTED of the crime by a unanimous jury verdict of Not Guilty. That means government can still punish an individual deemed Not Guilty by a jury of his peers, without ever having to make its case beyond a reasonable doubt. And such punishment can be devastating. An individual may lose his vehicle, thereby preventing him from getting to the job he depends on to earn a living. She may lose her house, leaving her without shelter for herself or her family. He may lose tens of thousands of dollars in cash, which government officials know will cost several thousands of dollars just for the opportunity to TRY to get it returned.

Jurors should keep in mind as they deliberate the immense pressure on individuals to waive their rights to due process and trial by jury. Asset forfeiture is another tactic by which the government can punish individuals, even if they are not guilty of any crime whatsoever, and use it as a bargaining chip with which to bully them out of exercising their right to trial by jury.

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