Did you receive a copy of FIJA's educational Jury Rights Calendar 2019? As mentioned in our calendar mailing, we cannot fit the huge wealth of information hinted at by the entries on the calendar into this outreach item. That's why we are supplementing it with entries on this page throughout the year! Check back here each month to learn more about the key milestones noted on various dates of the calendar!
January 11—Aaron Swartz
Bullied by prosecutors with the threat of decades in prison for exercising his right to trial by jury, Swartz tragically took his life on this day in 2013. Some think that a realistic shot at a fully informed jury could have changed his mind.
January 13—Melroy Cort
On this date in 2009, veteran Marine Corporal Melroy Cort likely benefitted from partial jury nullification in his trial for victimless weapons-related offenses
January 16—Elijah Woody
On this date in 2015, Detroit open-carry activist Elijah Woody was found not guilty of so-called illegal concealed carry after being arrested by officers who claimed his puffy jacket, which was tucked behind the Glock he was carrying on his hip, flopped over it thereby obscuring its view and illegally concealing it.
January 19—Glasser v. United States (1942)
In its 1942 decision in Glasser v. United States, the United States Supreme Court held that the general exclusion of women from the jury pool violated the impartial jury clause of the Sixth Amendment.
January 19—Birth of Lysander Spooner
On this day in 1808, Lysander Spooner was born in Athol, Massachusetts. Spooner would go on to make his mark in many fields. To juror rights educators, he is particularly well-known as an abolitionist, the author of the seminal work on jurors' right of conscientious acquittal entitled "An Essay on the Trial by Jury" (1852) and "Vices Are Not Crimes" (1875).
January 21—Sparf v. United States (1895)
In its 1895 decision in Sparf and Hansen v. United States (sometimes referred to simply as Sparf v. United States), the United States Supreme Court ruled that "by a general verdict, a jury of necessity determines both law and fact as compounded in the issue submitted to them in the particular case" but that "if there be no evidence upon which the jury can properly find the defendant guilty of an offense included in or less than the one charged, it is not error to instruct them that they cannot return a verdict of guilty of manslaughter, or of any offense less than the one charged". In summary, while this case did not change the jury's ability to conscientiously acquit, it made it easier for the government to misinform them regarding their ability to do so.
January 21—Taylor v. Louisiana (1975)
In its 1975 decision in Taylor v. Louisiana, the United States Supreme Court overturned Louisiana's jury selection system that involved systematic exclusion of women from jury panels by requiring them to previously filed a written declaration of their desire to be subject to jury service. Among other things, the Court ruled that excluding (in this case) 53% of citizens eligible for jury service violates the "requirement that a petit jury be selected from a representative cross-section of the community, which is fundamental to the jury trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment".
January 28—Loren Swift
On this date in 2009, Vietnam veteran Loren Swift was acquitted by his rural Illinois jury after just two hours of deliberations. Swift uses marijuana to relieve pain and post-traumatic stress. He had been charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and faced a mandatory minimum of six years incarceration after police found 25 pounds of marijuana and 50 pounds of marijuana plants in his home.