Written in 2004 exclusively for the US~Observer, “Jury Rights! Jury Nullification” (posted below) became an Internet sensation and a regularly referenced work regarding the true responsibilities of a jury. Now, almost 10 years later, much has happened that further compromises the jury system.
Our courts have systematically stonewalled juries when it comes to the knowledge of their right to decide not only the case but the law. Even Black’s Law Dictionary (Sixth Edition) defines “jury” as “a certain number of men and women selected according to law, and sworn to inquire of certain matters of fact, and declare the truth upon evidence to be laid before them.” Informed jurors must educate themselves to prevent this from happening. Schools do not teach the Constitution of the United States on even the most rudimentary level, much less the rights and duties of a juror.
The majority of candidates for elected office have never read, much less studied, the Constitution before swearing an oath to defend it. Consequently, how can we presume to think they know anything about the rights and duties of a juror? How can we expect them to intelligently make laws that do not further impinge on our rights when they don’t know the basic concepts of our Constitution and the rights and duties listed therein? That these rights and duties are imposed on government for our protection not theirs! We lose rights, if we are ignorant of them.
The justice system has become such a quagmire of deceit, power and graft that it no longer resembles what our forefathers envisioned. Do you know one of the first things a law student learns? There is no right and wrong. Do you know that one of the main precepts of an attorney is: protect yourself? Don’t worry about right or wrong. Don’t worry about truth and justice. Just remember that, as an attorney, you’ll have to come before this judge and this system many times. Clients rarely come before the court; they have no real knowledge of the law. So all too often they are thrown under the bus by their attorneys in favor of the attorneys’ aspirations and livelihoods.
The courts are mandated to enforce laws that all too often are not Constitutional. They are not to make law; they are to enforce the law as written by our legislatures. Others have an agenda and, as such, are far too willing to bend or ignore or rewrite law in order to fit that agenda. They have become militant in imposing law on us that falls far outside our Constitutional rights and their Constitutional limitations.
Today we labor under a whole new set of legal definitions. If you do not believe that, go to a pre-1970 Black’s Law Dictionary and see how the definitions of many words have changed. Or follow a law back to its inception and see the amendments and changes made to the original, which wipes out or turns around its intended meaning.
This is why all laws must be written to conform to the U. S. and State Constitutions. This is why we must elect representatives who have the courage, knowledge and backbone to bring our country back to Constitutional Law. We must also bring back morality to our country so our legal system defines its practice with truth and justice.
As a juror, it is imperative that you know your rights and your duties. These must be learned on your own, as the judge is not bound to tell you the truth about your rights or your duties. The judge will tell you what he wants even if it runs counter to the truth. That is why it is your responsibility to know that you have not only the right but the duty to judge not only the case but also the law as it pertains to the case you are hearing.
Be prepared to stand alone when not submitting to the dictates of a judge. Even other jury members may oppose you. Be prepared to educate them.
To be selected to a jury is one of the most important positions a citizen can enjoy. It should take precedence over all other concerns. It is a position of importance that few other countries afford their citizens. So, when you get that notice in the mail, don’t think about ways of getting out of jury duty, but rather how you can make your jury duty a worthy investment of your time by exercising one of our last freedoms.
Jury Rights! Jury Nullification (2004 US~Observer Exclusive)
Too often, Americans forget they were guaranteed a republican form of government with democratic elections in order to protect our sovereignty as citizens. But even with this protection, our elected representatives occasionally make laws that are not well received by the electorate.
Fortunately, our forefathers anticipated that problem. They gave us a clear, basic and forthright method of correcting unacceptable laws. It is jury nullification. Jury nullification allows the citizen to judge the law as it applies to the case.
A citizen’s last bastion of justice is a trial by a jury of his peers. The judiciary has eliminated, eradicated or simply ignored many rights; but a jury still may judge both the law and the case before them. To accomplish this, they must ignore a small portion of the “judges’ instructions to the jury.” And in so doing, all jurors will know in their hearts they are doing the right thing. They will also live with a much cleaner conscience.
For whatever reason, the government is turning more frequently to the administrative courts to determine the law. These administrative courts negate most judicial safeguards. Most particularly, the right to appeal the hearings officer’s or tribunal’s decision and the right to a jury trial are not part of administrative law.
In the Oregon system, judges would like you to think that only the judge can dictate the law. However, the jury has the ultimate responsibility and duty to determine the case and the law. The decision of the jury cannot be re-examined by any court of the United States. Is it any wonder that the legal system would like to eliminate, or at least control, juries?
Research has established that the intent of the signers of our Constitution regarding juries was that they were to judge the law as well as the case. Oregon’s Article 1, Section 16 states that jury decisions must be made “under the direction of the Court as to law” but the jury will determine the “law as well as the facts.”
In Oregon, judges are not required to inform the jury of their rights and they do not. Lawyers are not allowed to bring up jury nullification and they do not. That does not make jury nullification any less legal or applicable in coming to a decision.
“Jury stacking” is a common tactic of Oregon judges and attorneys who select only those who promise to abide by the direction of the court as to the law. This would be much more difficult if those who appeared for jury duty knew their rights, and more importantly their duty, as jurists.
Uninformed juries, in fear of the consequences that the judge might mete out, cave in to the coercive actions of the presiding officer. This would be less likely to happen if schools were teaching the rights and duties of the citizen jurist as part of their curriculum.
Schools could teach of leaders such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton who spoke out on the rights of the jury. Citizens should know that in 1972, Justices Byron White and Thurgood Marshal spoke out on the duty of the juror to judge the law as well as the case before them. Also, South Carolina in U.S. v. Gaudin (1995) ruled that juries are empowered to determine relevance and materiality.
U.S. vs. Dougherty, 473 F 2nd 1113, 1139, (1972) states: “The pages of history shine on instances of the jury’s exercise of its prerogative to disregard instructions of the judge…”
Citizens must understand that they are not obliged to set aside their conscience and their beliefs to follow the direction of a court official. The fact that the court chooses to ignore the rights and duties of the jury in no way obligates the jury to obey a judge who instructs them to perform against their conscience.
As far back as 1894, Alexander Hamilton admonished that, “Jurors should acquit even against the judge’s instruction…if exercising their judgment with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction that the charge of the court is wrong.” Today, knowledge of this statement is even more important as we see juries blindly obey agenda-driven judges.
As Justice Byron White in Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 US 145, 156 (1968) stated: “Providing an accused with the right to be tried by a jury of his peers gave him an inestimable safeguard against the corrupt or overzealous prosecutor and against the compliant, biased, or eccentric judge.”
It is the duty and obligation of anyone called for jury duty to know his rights and to exercise them. When you come before a court for jury selection you may simply state, “Your Honor, I know it is my duty as well as my right to judge both the case and the law.”
In many States this will undoubtedly be cause for dismissal, but you will have alerted others in the courtroom of their rights and duty. Hopefully, this would help curtail judges and the legal profession from controlling and directing the outcome of cases that are to be placed in the hands of a jury. It would also alert the lawmaking body of our government that they cannot continue to make laws that infringe on the rights of Americans.
We as citizens must remember that our forefathers gave us the ultimate veto power to use when the government fails us. The jury is our last protection against tyrannical law and an out of control government that only pays lip service to our rights and their oath of office. It is the duty of the jury to correct these mistakes.
The trial jury has more power than Congress, the President or even the Supreme Court because the jury has the final veto power over all wrongful “acts of the legislature,” in both criminal and civil proceedings.
It is also the responsibility of the juror to insist that his vote be respected by all other members of the jury. The juror is not there to agree with the majority, but to act as a qualified judge to see that justice is done. Each juror must step forward to protect all innocent Americans from unjust laws.
It is strongly urged that every citizen log on to the many Internet sites that describe and define jury rights and the rights of jury nullification. Remember, if you do not exercise your rights, you will lose your rights!
–Jeanne Wollman and Curt Chancler
About the authors:
Curt Chancler and Jeanne Wollman worked to bring together a citizen’s group in Jackson County, Ore., for the study and investigation of corruption in the local police department, judiciary and government. This organization has been extremely effective with court watch programs, a yearly informational booth at the county fair, and using public access television to expose government corruption.
To better let people know of the problems within the county, both Chancler and Wollman obtained Rogue Valley Community Access TV Producer’s certificates from Southern Oregon University. They are now writing for the Grants Pass, Ore.-based US-Observer newspaper.
Chancler, originally from Texas, has been a businessman in southern Oregon for 35 years. He has been married 38 years and is the father of five children and grandfather of nine.
Wollman is a native Oregonian who has lived for many years in Alaska. She has been married for 48 years, and she has four children and 11 grandchildren. She graduated from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., with a B.A. in English/Teaching.