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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 07 May 2014

-Occupy Trial Jurors Express Shock and Remorse Over Verdict

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Jury BoxThe four-week trial of Occupy activist Cecily McMillan wrapped up this week, with the jury delivering a verdict of Guilty on a charge of felony assault on a police officer. According to supporters and the defendant, Cecily was herself attacked by the police officer and reacted instinctively to protect herself from a sexual assault: “Seized from behind, she was forcefully grabbed by the breast and ripped backwards. Cecily startled and her arm involuntarily flew backward into the temple of her attacker, who promptly flung her to the ground, where others repeatedly kicked and beat her into a string of seizures.” Nonetheless, she was the one to be put in legal jeopardy as a result of this encounter while the police officer, accused of brutality in other incidents the day of the arrest and other occasions, was charged with nothing.

After the trial, jurors were quickly escorted away from the courthouse in a police vehicle, but reporters did apparently catch up to them to get their reactions. Having been isolated from any outside information throughout the trial, some of the jurors were shocked to discover upon re-establishing contact with the real world that they had just put this woman in jeopardy of seven years in prison.

Occupy trial juror describes shock at activist’s potential prison sentence

As Cecily McMillan was led to a cell in handcuffs amid uproar from her supporters, the 12 jurors who had just convicted the Occupy Wall Street activist of assaulting a New York police officer were whisked away in a police van. On the two-mile trip north through Manhattan to Union Square, where they were deposited well away from Monday’s courtroom commotion, some pulled out mobile phones and began searching online for news on the trial they had just spent a month of their lives considering.

Finally freed from a ban on researching the case, including potential punishments, some were shocked to learn that they had just consigned the 25-year-old to a sentence of up to seven years in prison, one told the Guardian. “They felt bad,” said the juror, who did not wish to be named. “Most just wanted her to do probation, maybe some community service. But now what I’m hearing is seven years in jail? That’s ludicrous. Even a year in jail is ridiculous.”

Worse still, it seems as though this conviction was made possible by at least one juror who seems to have changed a Not Guilty verdict to Guilty, not because he or she was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that McMillan was guilty, but rather because everyone else voted the other way:

The juror said that an immediate vote after the 12 were sent out for deliberation found they were split 9-3 in favour of convicting. After everyone watched the clip again in the jury room, the juror said, two of the three hold-outs switched to the majority, leaving only the juror who approached the Guardian in favour of acquitting the 25-year-old. Sensing “a losing battle”, the juror agreed to join them in a unanimous verdict. “I’m very remorseful about it,” the juror said a few hours later, having learned of McMillan’s potential punishment.

The verdict of a jury is not meant to be a compromise among 12 people coming to a consensus. Rather, it is intended to reflect each individual’s conscientious verdict, with any votes not in favor of conviction overruling all of the other votes. When a juror changes his or her vote simply to satisfy other jurors, he or she is denying the defendant the fair trial by jury that is due.

There is NO requirement that a jury must come to a unanimous decision. A HUNG JURY IS OKAY! And a hung jury is MUCH better for a defendant who doesn’t deserve punishment than knuckling under to peer pressure in the deliberation and a culture of authority and obedience in the courtroom. Your purpose as an independent juror is to uphold justice—not simply to cooperate for other jurors’ convenience or mindlessly deliver the verdict to which the government leads you. Your VOTE as a juror is your VETO over unjust laws, malicious prosecutions, overly harsh punishments, and other abuses perpetrated under color of law through the legal system.

If you believe the defendant is Not Guilty, or if you believe a Not Guilty verdict is necessary to justice even if the law has technically been broken, you have not only the right, but the responsibility to stick to your vote, even if others disagree with you. Incarceration is not a matter to be tossed around lightly, as if it were as legitimate a point to compromise on as toppings on a pizza. Any time you aid the government in imprisoning someone, no matter how minor the offense is, you have effectively put the death penalty on the table. Whether your Not Guilty vote comes from a believe the defendant has not been proven Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or through a conscientious belief that jury nullification is necessary to deliver a just verdict, you may be the one person standing between the defendant and irreparable harm to their reputation, their relationships, their education, their livelihood, their liberty, their physical safety, and perhaps even their entire life itself.

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