Missouri's 7th District, U.S. House of Representatives




Congressional Issues 2010
Jury Nullification

JU'RY, n. [Fr. juré, sworn, L. juro, to swear.]
A number of freeholders, selected in the manner prescribed by law, empanneled and sworn to inquire into and try any matter of fact, and to declare the truth on the evidence given them in the case. Grand juries consist usually of twenty four freeholders at least, and are summoned to try matters alleged in indictments. Petty juries, consisting usually of twelve men, attend courts to try matters of fact in civil causes, and to decide both the law and the fact in criminal prosecutions. The decision of a petty jury is called a verdict.
Webster's 1828 American Dictionary
Did you know that you qualify to cast another, much more powerful vote than the one which you cast on election day? This opportunity comes when you are selected for jury duty, a position of honor for over 700 years.

The Declaration of Independence says we have the right to abolish any government that becomes a "tyranny." In fact, it says we have a "duty" to do so. One way to fulfill that duty is by picking up a musket and abolish the tyrant at once. A better way is to abolish tyranny one law at a time. This is done as a juror, in an act called "jury nullification," in which you vote to acquit a defendant regardless of the facts and disregarding the law or the instructions of the judge.

Imagine the government passes a very bad law which makes it illegal to be a Muslim. Your next-door neighbor is a Muslim, is embarrassed by "Islamo-fascist" nut-jobs like Osama bin Ladin, and is proud to be an American citizen. The government requires you and everyone in your neighborhood to shoot your Muslim neighbor on sight. You refuse to obey this law. You know your Muslim neighbor very well, and you know your neighbor is a good American. So does your neighbor across the street, he refuses to obey this very bad law, and he is arrested and charged with violating the "shoot-on-sight" law. You are selected to be on a "jury of his peers." The law is clear, and the facts are clear: your neighbor did indeed violate this very bad law.

You as a juror have the right under American Law to vote with your conscience: to vote NOT GUILTY regardless of the law, regardless of the facts, and regardless of the judge's instructions to the jury.

The Declaration of Independence says we have a duty to abolish a government which becomes a tyranny. The best way to do this is to "take alarm" at the first infringement on our liberties -- not wait until a huge Revolution is needed -- and NULLIFY bad laws as a juror by voting NOT GUILTY when appropriate.

This is an important right, privilege and duty of all Americans.

Today we mostly think of [jury nullification] in the context of the O.J. Simpson trial, or the juries that refused to convict racist killers in the South during the Civil Rights era. [T]hat's a small part of the jury nullification picture. The Framers considered such injustices well worth it in light of the jury's ability to frustrate the actions of would-be tyrants. Such discretion on the part of juries has its downside, of course -- but so does the unbridled discretion of prosecutors, which is generally considered to be a Good Thing by many of those who fear giving the same discretion to juries. [I]t's not obvious why this should be the case.
Glenn H. Reynolds (The University of Tennessee)

Jurors should acquit, even against the judge's instruction... if exercising their judgment with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction the charge of the court is wrong.
-- Alexander Hamilton, 1804

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 instruction of the court.
-- John Adams, 1771

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.
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1789

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their choice, if the laws are so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they... undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow
-- James Madison

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