Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Jury Rights Day - September 5th

I've written before about the legal procedure called "jury nullification". I believe I have spoken to the fact that it remains one of the very few ways that remain which allow American citizens to have any effect upon the justice system whatsoever. It is so potent a weapon when used properly that every judge in every courtroom across the country tries to negate it by lying to the jury and telling them they may only judge the facts in any trial. The truth is that it is the jury's right and duty to judge both the facts and the law.

If the law is unjust, if it is unfair, if the punishment does not fit the crime, or if a juror's conscience simply will not permit them to convict, it is that juror's right and duty to vote for acquittal. Even though I am in favor of the death penalty in some cases, if a juror cannot support the death penalty, if they believe it is unjust or morally unacceptable, it is their right to vote against it. (These days, in far too many cases, they would probably be saving the life of an innocent person, railroaded onto death row by an overzealous prosecutor.)

Remember, in jurisprudence there are two concepts which speak to what is right and what is wrong: "malum per se" and "malum prohibitum". "Malum per se" means "bad in itself": murder, rape, child abuse or molestation. Things that every civilized (which is why it doesn't fit in with the teachings of Mohammed) person knows to be wrong. "Malum prohibitum" means "bad because it is prohibited", forbidden by those who rule. Running a stop sign, "cheating" on your taxes, catching a fish without a license.

Now, running a stop sign can be dangerous, could cause an accident injuring or killing someone innocent. However, if you are given a ticket for running a stop sign when it is three A.M. and you can see a mile up the road that there are no vehicles or pedestrians or horse-drawn buggies that you will put at risk by rolling through the stop, you are being punished by "malum prohibitum", punished for doing nothing that could possibly cause any harm, something someone decided they just don't think you should be allowed to do. Like smoking a cigarette in a building in many cities, buying an alcoholic beverage in some counties of some states, riding a motorcycle without a helmet in many states, or getting circumcised in San Francisco (they were almost successful in passing that law).

By extension, if a man is charged with a civil rights violation, or with the "crime" of "hate speech" because he openly speaks of the fact that some muslims mistreat, beat, abuse, and rape their wives, that some muslims kill their daughters when they feel the daughter has compromised their family "honor", does he deserve to suffer imprisonment because of this "malum prohibitum"? Has he caused an individual harm by speaking the truth? Would it not be appropriate for a juror to decide that, while he may have indeed committed the "crime" he was charged with, that he did not deserve to be punished for telling the truth? Ask Geert Wilders of the Netherlands how he feels about that.

If a man loaned a rifle to another man and, while shooting it at a shooting range, the rifle malfunctioned and fired twice when the trigger was only pulled once, does the owner of that rifle deserve to be arrested, convicted, and sent to prison because a broken part in the rifle caused it to malfunction? Does he deserve to be stripped of thousands of dollars defending himself, impoverish his family, lose his job and his good name, and be sent to prison? Even though it was proven his rifle malfunctioned and there was no intent by anyone to make it fire more than once per trigger pull? Ask David Olofson, who is now a felon because he owned a broken rifle.

When the government and our elitist legislators and the regulators of the various alphabet agencies (IRS, EPA, FDA, ATF, FBI, DOE, etc.) have citizens arrested for laws and regulatory violations that the people of this country had no say in creating, laws which criminalize behavior or activities that neither you nor I would deem wrong, it is the right and the duty of the citizens of the jury to vote for acquittal, even if the facts indicate the "crime" was indeed committed. Please visit FIJA.org and read about the history of jury nullification, of the purpose of this organization, and of the upcoming "Jury Rights Day".


  1. The Olofson railroading still chaps my hide. The fact that it was allowed, indeed made, to happen the way it did simply serves as another proof that we do not have a "justice" system, merely a legal system.

    Its interesting to observe, with the influence of activist judges on the legal system, that what was meant for the jury - the right to judge both the facts and the law - has been usurped by the judges themselves, who now regularly overturn laws they don't like. The same judges that tell the jury that their role is only to judge based on the facts - which is actually the judges' role. A peculiar turn of events, no?

    -LeverAction (posting as Event Horizon)

  2. The Left has always been about confusing and deceiving citizens as to their actual rights and duties as citizens. What is taught to our kids in public schools these days is so socialist in nature and delivery that there is little chance they will know the truth, unless parents take an active part in correcting many of the misconceptions and outright lies that they are fed by their teachers.

    Jury nullification is such a powerful tool against tyranny, against the usurpation of power by activist judges and lying legislators, that the judges know they _must_ keep the juries from using it. I wonder if they would attempt to pass legislation to keep us from using it if we began to utilize it more often than it happens now (very rare)?

    In the past, they have tried to penalize and punish jurors who have used it, claiming in one case that the woman lied during voir dire (she hadn't). She was forced to go to court to defend her own perfectly legal actions. She won, but I think she had to spend a few days in jail because of it. Well worth it, in my opinion. I have tried to get on several juries, but in each case the _prosecutor_ was able to sniff out my intent and struck me from the active list. I need to learn to dissemble better ;-)


Sorry, folks. I was completely ignorant about comment rules. Anyone can post, but I'd prefer a name, even if it is made up. Anonymous posts just seem cheap, if you know what I mean. Also, if you want to argue a point, that's fine. Cheap shots and name calling towards me or another person commenting (ad hominem) is rude and will get you banned. Other than that, I'd love to get some comments.