When jurors emerged from a trial openly
weeping because they felt compelled by the judge's instructions to convict
an 18 year old young man, something is wrong. He was convicted
of child molestation of his 16 year old, now pregnant, girl friend, even
though he wanted to marry her.
The problem is, if a law is not just, prosecutors and judges have few alternatives, the prosecutor can refuse to prosecute or the judge can refuse to hear the case. However, if a case does go to trial, both must follow the law as written, regardless of extenuating circumstances
The last protection standing between the people and a tyrannical government is the jury system. According to the Library of Congress, there are over 6,000,000 Federal laws and many more state laws and local ordinances. Is there anyone who believes that all of these laws are justified, that none are unreasonable, or, in some cases, even ridiculous? Think not?
A Florida law states:" Having sexual relations with a porcupine is illegal."
In WestVirginia: " Whistling under water is prohibited"
While in Massachussetts: "No gorilla is allowed in the back seat of any car."
And in the city of Los Angeles: "It is a crime for dogs to mate within 500 yards of a church."
But in Chicago: "It is illegal to give a dog whiskey."
And as a last example; in New Orleans: "You may not tie an alligator to a fire hydrant."
These actual laws are from: www.dumblaws.com
THE JURY AND JUSTICE
Our second president, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a lawyer, said of the juror, " It is not only his 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." -John Adams, Yale Law Journal, 74 (1964): 173
It is obvious that our foundingfathers placed their trust in the people to administer the laws justly.
Even today this precedence stands. " If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the evidence... If the jury feels that the law under which the defendant is accused is unjust, or that the exigent circumstances justified the actions of the accused, or for any reason which appeals to their logic or passion, the jury has the power to acquit, and the courts must abide by that decision." -U.S. v Moylan, 4th U.S. Circuit Court Of Appeals, 1969, 417 F 2d at 1006.A
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE JURY SYSTEM
The concept of common law and trial by jury originated in England with the Anglo-Saxons. In 1215, with the signing of the Magna Carta, nobles and freemen of England were accorded trial by a jury of peers.
In 1670, the Church of England was the only legal church in England, and William Penn was arrested for preaching a Quaker sermon. At the conclusion of the trial, the jurors, led by Edward Bushell, would not bring a guilty verdict even though instructed to do so by the court. The jurors were confined for two days without food, water, tobacco, or toilet facilities. The four most stubborn jurors were placed in prison for nine weeks, until Bushell filed a writ of habeas corpus, and the Court of Common Pleas ruled that jurors could no longer be punished for their verdicts.
In colonial America a publisher, Peter Zengler, was charged with printing articles critical of the Royal Governor of New York. The prosecution stated that, even though the articles were true, they were seditious, and truth had no bearing on the charge. Zengler's attorney, Andrew Hamilton, argued that the grand jurors were the judges. Zengler was acquitted within fifteen minutes.
COMMON LAW = COMMON SENSE
The U. S. system of laws was originally based on common law, that if someone is charged with a crime then there must be an injured party. However, present day criminal law consists mostly of statute, or written law, passed by government legislatures or issued by government agencies. In addition, court law procedures are frequently based on case law..
Case law was introduced by a Harvard Dean of the Law School, Christopher Langdell in 1869-70. Based on previous court decisions, some excellent, many mediocre, and others not good at all. But these cases may not consider differing circumstances. Even the Supreme Court has reversed its own decisions, so how can cites be reliable? Would any lawyer cite the O.J. Simpson trial as an example of justice?
We are often told that ignorance of the law is no excuse, yet when the prosecutor and judge read the charges against the defendant they have to read the law from the charge sheet even they can't remember it. Last, is the wording of laws. For example, please interpret the following government regulation: Federal Tax Code, Section 509 (a): "For purposes of paragraph (3), an organization described in paragraph (2) shall be deemed to include an organization described in section 501 (c) (4), (5), or (6) which would be described in paragraph (2) if it were an organization described in section 501(c)(3)" Should a defendant understand this?
WHO'S TAMPERING WITH THE EVIDENCE?
The courts are justly harsh on the crime of tampering with evidence, and yet judges are often the main culprit of this crime. For example, when a judge will not permit the defense to enter pertinent evidence in a trial.
A case in point? A woman's boyfriend was breaking into her home to get at her. He was armed with a chain and finally smashed the window and climbed in. When the man attacked the girl's father with the chain, the father seized his daughter's pistol and killed the attacker.
Because the defendant was a previous felon and was not permitted to own a gun, the judge refused to permit the defense attorney to enter a plea of self-defense. This despite the fact that the gun wasn't his, and he was defending his life! Isn't that tampering with evidence?
AND JURY TAMPERING?
Isn't it a form of jury tampering when a judge demands an oath that jurors must decide the verdict in accordance with his instructions? Or with his failure to inform jurors that they may decide if the law is unjust or misapplied, or that the defendant could have been justified in breaking the law.
Another form of jury tampering is limiting the jury to six members. Of course it is easier to select and control six jurors than twelve. But for the state to say that this reduction is to save money is ridiculous, when the entire daily cost of a twelve man jury probably does not exceed the hourly wage of the judge!
A man's home was raided by the IRS and his possessions were seized. In court he proved the charges were in error. He then filed suit against the agents. He was arrested again on eight counts of obstruction of justice. When the jury could not reach a verdict, the judge ordered them to reconsider and return with a verdict. The air-conditioning didn't work and the bathroom facilities failed. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on five of the charges. Jurors who reversed their vote convicted a man they had believed to be innocent. It is obvious that the jurors were more interested in comfort than justice. Certainly no Edward Bushell was present on that jury.
Jurors must also be alert for malicious practices by prosecutors. A lengthy charge sheet may influence jurors to believe that anyone facing so many charges must be guilty. However, when jurors find any of the charges dropped or to be obviously in error, they should study all of the other charges very carefully.
HOW JURORS SHOULD BE INSTRUCTED
" To reach a verdict which you believe is just, each of you has the right to consider the motives of the defendant, and the extent to which the defendant's action have actually caused harm or otherwise violated your sense of right or wrong. If you believe justice requires it, you may judge both the merits of the law under which he has been charged and the wisdom of applying that law to the defendant.
Accordingly, for each charge against the defendant, even if review of the evidence strictly in terms of the law would indicate a guilty verdict, you have the right to find him not guilty. The court cautions that with the exercise of this right comes full moral responsibility for the verdict you bring in."
If you are called for jury duty, you will be questioned by the lawyers and perhaps by the judge to determine if you are suitable as a juror for the case to be heard. This is known as voir dire (to speak the truth).. Under no circumstances deny you are an informed juror if questioned by the judge or the lawyers, that would be perjury and is a felony! However, you will be excused from jury duty when you refuse to agree to the oath requiring you to follow the judges instructions.
THE GRAND JURY
Most citizens do not realize that the grand jury is the most powerful entity in the United States. No one is above the investigative powers of this judicial body. "...it is the duty of a grand jury to guard the rights and liberties of the people; it has supervision of the enforcement of law and order, the preservation and protection of morals and social order and the care of bringing to light for examination, trial, and punishment all violence, outrages, and indecencies. The most valuable function of the grand jury is... to stand between the prosecutor and the accused..." (emphasis added) - 38 Am Jur 2d Sec 26
Prosecutors direct but do not control a grand jury. Those chosen for grand jury duty should study the rights and duties of the grand jury.
POINTS TO PONDER
The Florida State Bar is private, it is not a state agency. Lawyers not only establish the attorney requirements, they judge the actions of other lawyers, so very few lawyers are punished for malpractice.
The judge's pension fund receives twenty-percent of all fines collected. Isn't that a conflict of interest?
And, because judges are appointed rather than elected, they do not have to worry about whether people consider their courts to be dispensing justice or not.
With Congress passing unconstitutional laws under the guise of protecting us from terrorists, jurors must be extremely careful that defendants are given a fair trial.
And lastly: If a jury must follow the instructions of the judge, then of what use is the jury?
Internet: www.fija.org or call: 1-800-TEL-JURY