Fully Informed Jury Association

Are you fully informed about jury nullification?

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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