Jury Trials, Justice, and You

The People Over All Else

U.S. Constitution - Amendment 6

Amendment 6 - Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Notes for this amendment: Proposed 9/25/1789
Ratified 12/15/1791

U.S. Constitution - Amendment 7

Amendment 7 - Trial by Jury in Civil Cases

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Notes for this amendment: Proposed 9/25/1789
Ratified 12/15/1791

Jury trials are intended to protect the liberties provided by the Bill of Rights and juries were designed and intended to be the ultimate arbiters of justice and law in the United States, although the courts are doing everything in their power to take the right away. You need to ask yourself why the courts are doing everything in their power to take the right away from you and come up with a completely satisfactory answer to you.  If you cannot then you have no obligation to accept any answer but your own. 

The founding fathers and the colonists created America with their blood, and although they may not have been perfect, the United States for many years was one of the foremost civilizations on earth.  The founding fathers feared that corruption would take the fantastic nation away from you the people, and said as much many times. The entire group of colonists, your forefathers gave you one last weapon as a failsafe, which was your right to continually be armed without restrictions of any kind, and specifically included the right to take arms against your own government as part of it. When the government, the courts and the major institutions in the nation as well as its largest businesses become completely corrupt and try to change the fundamentals of the constitution that is called tyranny.  You, as citizens are supposed to fix that, by armed insurrection if necessary.  Surprisingly, if you read a lot of history, the colonists were not all in agreement about throwing out the British, and it seems a fairly large number actually turned against the colonists and founders.  Spies and traitors to the creation of America tried to undermine it.  Unfortunately I don't think you can expect any less today with the added problem that Paul Revere's horse would have a tracking device in its ass, making the enemies that much harder to defeat.

The right to bear arms against your fellow man places a tremendous obligation on you, but at the same time without it you will be like every other person on earth who has no choice but to flee their homes and their lives to escape the brutality of other citizens, such as in Mexico with the cartels, or be subject to lies and corruption of your government which will destroy your land in favor of the rich and powerful, which is just about everywhere else.  There is no question a certain number of people will be hurt by others that have serious mental heath issues in an armed populace, or are deluded by some deranged belief, but that risk is vastly outweighed by the unchecked power of government and the wealthy to destroy the home your forefathers gave you.  

Juries ruling the opposite of what a court wants is called jury nullification.  The following article quoted directly discusses that idea.  Research the topic yourself in depth instead of glossing it over and allowing it to go by.

Our legal system was never intended to be a level playing field. In fact, it was purposely designed to err on the side of acquittal based on the long-standing principle articulated by the English jurist William Blackstone in 1765 that, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” This principle has even deeper roots, being invoked in various forms in the Salem witch trials in the 1690s, by Sir John Fortescue (Chief Justice of the King’s Bench of England) in the 1400s, by the 12th century legal scholar Maimonides, and in the book of Genesis in the Bible. For this reason, the prosecution is meant to bear a much heavier burden of proof in any criminal case, with the defense bearing no burden at all to prove innocence.

Before one is able to understand why juries having the last word is a good idea, one must understand the importance of a trial by jury. Our Founding Fathers universally considered it to be a powerful weapon in the war against tyranny.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton wrote that trial by jury was the “very palladium of free government” and a “valuable check upon corruption.”

Hamilton’s fellow Federalist author and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay informed a jury in a 1794 case that

"It may not be amiss, here, Gentlemen, to remind you of the good old rule, that on questions of fact, it is the province of the jury, on questions of law, it is the province of the court to decide. But it must be observed that by the same law, which recognizes this reasonable distribution of jurisdiction, you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy."

Given the strength of these opinions, then, it is no surprise that the denial of trials by jury was one of the foremost acts of despotism listed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

As for the concept that juries have not only the power but the obligation to nullify unjust rulings of a judge, John Adams wrote:

“It is not only [the juror's] right, but his duty ... to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.”

And Hamilton, again from the Federalist Papers, described the jury’s check on the judge as a “double security” that “tends to preserve the purity” of both judge and jury.

Obviously, the idea that juries may act contrary to the will of a judge is nothing new in American law, and it is an act of resistance to government oppression that our Founders believed to be fundamental in a Republic that was to remain free under the rule of law rather than enslaved according to the rule of men.

As indicated by the statements provided above, our Founding Fathers zealously defended this right and recognized that only an informed and empowered jury could effectively protect a defendant from the potentially harmful effects of autocratic judges.

While the subject of nullification occasionally pops up in mainstream media discussions, jury nullification is something that is rarely heard of, even among constitutionalists and supporters of the right of the states to oppose federal overreaching.

Last November, the Washington Times published a story providing a basic introduction to the topic:

Jury nullification occurs when a jury acquits a defendant they believe to be guilty by nullifying one or more laws that they believe should not apply to the defendant. Jurors often exercise nullification when they either personally disagree with a law or feel that the punishment mandated by a law is too harsh. In general, jurors are not reminded by judges of their nullification powers.

Despite the strength of the historical record and the unalloyed support of the concept expressed by many of the leading lights of the Founding Generation, among the powerful, there is rock-ribbed resistance to the practice.

In 2013, the Washington Times reported that activists handing out pro-jury nullification tracts were “arrested and charged with ‘jury tampering’ for distributing handbills at the courthouse that essentially publish the text of the New Hampshire law.”

In an editorial, the Washington Times regarded this incident as an ironic example of the critical need for jury nullification in the fight against government oppression:

This demonstrates clearly the responsibility of juries to serve as a check against judges and prosecutors who may think they’re the last word in all matters of the law. Respect for the law and the courts is necessary for the good of all in a free society, and sometimes, as the number of frivolous and oppressive laws [multiplies], a little nullification can be a tonic, and a reminder to the lawyers, including judges, of who’s really the boss.

As the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rightly held, the Constitution guarantees the right to trial by jury. Therefore, the government must bring its case before a jury of the people if the government wants to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property. As the last line of defense of this “unalienable right,” jurors can and should reject government tyranny and refuse to obey a judge’s order to find a defendant guilty or to convict those subjected to prosecution for violating unjust laws.

Joe A. Wolverton, II, J.D. is a correspondent for The New American and travels nationwide speaking on nullification, the Second Amendment, the surveillance state, and other constitutional issues.  Follow him on Twitter @TNAJoeWolverton and he can be reached at jwolverton@thenewamerican.com.