View Full Version : One of RP's stands that is little discussed

05-16-2007, 06:26 PM
..but I think is very important.


Paul believes that juries deserve the status of tribunals, and that jurers have the right to judge the law as well as the facts of the case. "

An explanation is here:

The principle of a Common Law Jury or Trial by the Country was first established on June 15, 1215 at Runnymede, England when King John signed the Magna Carta, or Great Charter of our Liberties. It created the basis for our Constitutional, system of Justice.
In fact, the power of jury nullification predates our Constitution. In November of 1734, a printer named John Peter Zenger was arrested for seditious libel against his Majesty's government. At that time, a law of the Colony of New York forbid any publication without prior government approval. Freedom of the press was not enjoyed by the early colonialists! Zenger, however, defied this censorship and published articles strongly critical of New York colonial rule.

When brought to trial in August of 1735, Zenger admitted publishing the offending articles, but argued that the truth of the facts stated justified their publication. The judge instructed the jury that truth is not justification for libel. Rather, truth makes the libel more vicious, for public unrest is more likely to follow true, rather than false claims of bad governance. And since the defendant had admitted to the "fact" of publication, only a question of "law" remained.

Then, as now, the judge said the "issue of law" was for the court to determine, and he instructed the jury to find the defendant guilty. It took only ten minutes for the jury to disregard the judge's instructions on the law and find Zenger NOT GUILTY.

That is the power of the jury at work; the power to decide the issues of law under which the defendant is charged, as well as the facts. In our system of checks and balances, the jury is our final check, the people's last safegard against unjust law and tyranny.
A Jury's Rights, Powers, and Duties:

But does the jury's power to veto bad laws exist under our Constitution?

It certainly does! At the time the Constitution was written, the definition of the term "jury" referred to a group of citizens empowered to judge both the law and the evidence in the case before it. Then, in the February term of 1794, the Supreme Court conducted a jury trial in the case of the State of Georgia vs. Brailsford (3 Dall 1). The instructions to the jury in the first jury trial before the Supreme Court of the United States illustrate the true power of the jury. Chief Justice John Jay said: "It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision." (emphasis added) "...you have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy".

So a simple analogy would be: you get charged with speeding, doing 64 in a 55 on a freeway. A jury of your peers decides that the 55 speed limit, being ridiculously low, finds you not guilty.

Under the coming new Codex Alimentus rules, one cannot sell Vitamin C tablets of more than 200 mg. The owner of a small heath foods store on trial for selling 500 mg tablets. Again the jury can find the law banning tablets of more than 200 mg ridiculous, and find her not guilty.

05-16-2007, 06:54 PM
I've heard of this before, I think its generally considered an un-documented right of juries.

On one hand, it can keep people from being prosecuted by stupid laws, of which we have many. On the other hand, its a possible way for a jury to overstep the bounds of the law, and prosecute someone unjustly, isn't it?

05-16-2007, 06:58 PM
From what I gather, it is also pretty heavily suppressed when potential jurors are selected, based on how they answer certain questions. If you answer in a way that suggests you think you have this right, then they'll likely filter you out.

Another forum I frequent had a discussion on this recently, here in the GameDev.net lounge (http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=445351).

05-16-2007, 07:07 PM
I've heard of this before, I think its generally considered an un-documented right of juries.

On one hand, it can keep people from being prosecuted by stupid laws, of which we have many. On the other hand, its a possible way for a jury to overstep the bounds of the law, and prosecute someone unjustly, isn't it? This was generally how things were done in the early republic. This is also how Prohibition was ended, jurys simply would not convict.

Its part of the checks and balances of the Republic. When one house of Congress votes on a Bill each member should do as Ron does and judge it against the Constitution. If it makes it to the next house each member should do the same, if you think its unconstitutional you vote it down. When the President gets the Bill, he should look at it, and if he thinks it does not meet Constitutional standards, veto it. If the law gets challenged in the courts they are to strike it down if its judged unconstitutional. Jury's are supposed to do likewise and refuse to convict. Citizens can be trusted just as much if not more than politicians and judges to do the right thing. Sadly this whole process like many other parts of the Constitutional process is ignored and forgotten, and our liberty has suffered accordingly.

This is one of the hundreds of reasons the establishment tries to discredit Ron. His first priority is freedom theirs obviously is not.

05-16-2007, 07:30 PM
I think this is an important issue too and one I certainly agree with the good Doctor on. Giskard, if you are so inclined I would challenge you to do some more research on this issue and create a write-up based on a model you can adapt from what I outlined here:

I think it's important we add what we can for what we think is important. It would be great if you and others are up for the challenge, I'm looking at doing more like this myself.

05-16-2007, 08:00 PM
I think the phrase we're looking for here is "jury nullification." As I understand it, a juror has the right to vote a defendent "not guilty" if that juror thinks the law is wrong.

But, and this is a big but....while the right does exist, the Court has no responsibility to inform the jurors of that right, and can indeed instruct them, that they must "vote guilty if the defendant broke the law."

http://www.jurynullification.com/ (Hee! There's a whole site devoted to it!)


Because as citizens and jurors, we should all know this.