Saturday, May 12, 2007

I Don't Care What the Judge Said!"
> by Joel Turtel.
> "Look, Mr. Straun, John, can I call you John? We've been at this for 25
> days. We're all sick of this. We all want to go home. You're the only one
> left. You're the one keeping us here. I got things to do at home. I got to
> go to work and make a living. All of us do. The judge is mad as hell at
> us. You're going to hang this jury. You're going to make this three-month
> trial into a farce and waste of time. You have no right to vote acquittal.
> You heard the judge's instructions. The jury is not allowed to judge the
> law, only the facts."
> "The fact are clear as day, aren't they?" Dillard ranted. "You even
> admitted that to us. The guy was found with marijuana in his car. That's
> against the law. And the guy admitted the marijuana was his. What more do
> you need?" said Raymond Dillard, the jury foreman. Raymond Dillard was
> tall, beefy, in his 30's, and he was getting mad, so mad he wanted to beat
> John Straun's head in.
> Straun was a small, slim man in his 30's, with a straight back, dark brown
> hair, large, steady eyes, and a firm mouth. He seemed not to care at all
> about all the trouble he was causing. And he seemed to be fearless.
> John Straun said, "I don't care what the judge said. I happen to know for
> a fact that a jury has the right to judge the law. Jury nullification has
> a long history in this country. A jury has the right to judge the law, not
> just the facts."
> Raymond Dillard and a few other jurors sneered. Dillard said, "Oh, are you
> a lawyer, Mr. Straun? You think you know more than the judge? What history
> are you talking about?"
> John Straun said calmly, "No, I'm not a lawyer. I'm an engineer. But in
> this particular case, I do know more than the judge. When I found out I
> was going to be on this jury, I did a little research about the history of
> juries, just for the hell of it. Most people don't know this, but jury
> nullification has been upheld as a sacred legal principal in English
> common law for 1000 years. Alfred the Great, a great English king a
> thousand years ago, hung several of his own judges because they removed
> jurors who refused to convict and replaced these courageous jurors with
> other jurors they could intimidate into convicting the defendant on
> trial."
> "Jury nullification also goes back to the very beginning of our country,
> as one of the crucial rights our Founding Fathers wanted to protect. Our
> Founding Fathers wanted juries to be the final bulwark against tyrannical
> government laws. That's why they emphasized the right to a jury trial in
> three of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. John Adams, second
> President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, third President and
> author of the Declaration of Independence, John Jay, First Chief Justice
> of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Alexander Hamilton, First Secretary of the
> Treasury all flatly stated that juries have the right and duty to judge
> not only the facts in a case, but also the law, according to their
> conscience."
> "Not only that, more recent court decisions have reaffirmed this right. In
> 1969, in "US. vs. Moylan," the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the
> right of juries to judge the law in a case. In 1972, the Washington, D.C.
> Court of Appeals upheld the same principal."
> Raymond Dillard said, "Yeah, if that's the case, how come the judge didn't
> tell us this?"
> "That's because of the despicable Supreme Court decision in "Sparf and
> Hansen vs. The United States in 1895." John Straun said. "That decision
> said juries have the right to judge the law, but that a judge doesn't have
> to inform juries of this right. Cute, huh? And guess what happened after
> this decision? Judges stopped telling juries about their rights."
> "The judge knows about jury nullification. All judges do. But they hate
> letting juries decide the law. They hate juries taking power away from
> them. That's why judges never mention a jury's right to judge the law, and
> most judges squash defense attorneys from saying anything about it in
> court. Remember when Jimmy Saunders' defense lawyer started talking about
> it? The judge threatened him with contempt if he didn't shut up about jury
> nullification."
> "And since you asked me," Straun continued, "I'll tell you a little more
> about jury nullification. Did you ever hear of the Fugitive Slave Act? Did
> you ever hear of Prohibition? Do you know why those despicable laws were
> repealed? Because juries were so outraged over those laws that they
> consistently refused to convict people who violated them. They refused to
> convict because they knew that these laws were unjust and tyrannical, that
> Congress had no right making these laws in the first place. So, because
> juries wouldn't convict, the government couldn't make these laws stick.
> They tried for many years, but finally gave up."
> "What do you think this mad War on Drugs is that we've been fighting the
> last sixty years? It's the same as Prohibition in the 20's. It's the same
> principle. A tyrannical government is telling people that they can't take
> drugs, just like in the 20's they said people couldn't drink liquor.
> What's the difference? A tyrannical law is telling people what they can or
> can't put in their own bodies. Who owns our bodies, us or the
> self-righteous(*) politicians? Does the government own your body, Mr.
> Dillard? Do you smoke, Mr. Dillard? Do you drink beer?"
> Dillard nodded his head, "Yeah, I do."
> "Well, how would you like it if they passed laws telling you that can't
> smoke or drink a beer anymore. Would you like that, Mr. Dillard?"
> Dillard looked at John Straun, thought about the question, then admitted,
> "No, I wouldn't, Straun."
> John Straun turned to the others around the table. "You, Jack, you said
> you're sixty-five years old. You like to play golf, right? What if they
> passed a law saying anyone over sixty-five can't play golf because the
> exercise might give him a heart attack? You, Frank, you said you eat
> hamburgers at McDougals all the time. What if they passed a law saying
> fatty hamburgers give people heart attacks, so we're closing down all the
> McDougal restaurants in the country, and they make eating a hamburger a
> criminal offence? You, Mrs. Pelchat, I see you like to smoke. Everyone
> knows that smoking can give you lung cancer. How would you like it if they
> passed a law banning all cigarettes? What if they could crash in the door
> of your house without a warrant to search for cigarettes in your house,
> like the SWAT teams do now, looking for drugs? Mrs. Pelchat, how would you
> like to be on trial like Jimmy Saunders because they found a pack of
> cigarettes you hid under your mattress?"
> "Do you all see what I mean? If they can make it a crime for Jimmy
> Saunders to smoke marijuana, why can't they make golf, hamburgers, and
> cigarettes a crime? If you think they wouldn't try, think again. They had
> Prohibition in the 20's for almost ten years, till they finally gave up.
> The only reason they haven't banned cigarettes is because there are thirty
> million cigarette smokers in this country who would scream bloody murder.
> They get away with making marijuana and other drugs illegal only because
> drug-users are a small minority in this country. Drug users don't have any
> political clout."
> Raymond Dillard sat down in his chair. The others started talking among
> themselves. John Straun started seeing heads nodding in agreement,
> thinking about what he had said.
> "OK, Straun," Dillard said. "Maybe you're right. Maybe Jimmy Saunders
> shouldn't go to jail for smoking marijuana. Hell, probably most of us
> tried the stuff when we were young. Clinton said he smoked marijuana in
> college. Bush said he tried drugs in college. Probably half of Congress
> and their kids took drugs one time or another. O.K. we agree with you. But
> what about the judge. He said we can't judge the law."
> John Straun stood up. He was not a tall man, but he stood very straight,
> and he looked very sure of himself. He looked from one to another of them.
> He said, "If you agree with me, then I ask you all to vote for acquittal.
> You are not only defending Jimmy Saunders' liberty, but your own. You are
> fighting a tyrannical law that is enforced by a judge who wants the power
> to control you. I told you that many juries like us in the past have
> disregarded the judge's instructions. They stood up for liberty against a
> tyrannical law. Are you Americans here? What do you value more, your
> liberty, your pride as free men, or the instructions of a judge who
> doesn't want you to judge the law precisely because he knows you'll find
> the law unjust? Will you stand with those juries who defended our liberty
> in the past, or will you give in to this judge?"
> "Here's another thing to think about," John Straun said with passion.
> "What if it was your sister or brother on trial here? Do you know that if
> we say Saunders is guilty, the judge has to send him to prison for twenty
> years? I understand this is Saunders third possession charge. You know the
> "three
> strikes and you're out" rule, don't you? The politicians passed a law that
> if a guy gets convicted three times on possession, the judge now has no
> leeway in sentencing. He has to give the poor guy twenty years in prison.
> What if it were your sister or brother on trial? Should they go to jail
> for smoking marijuana, for doing something that should not be a crime in
> the first place? Do we want to send Jimmy Saunders to prison for twenty
> years because he smoked a joint, hurting no one? Can you have that on your
> conscience?"
> "Do you know that there are almost a million guys like Jimmy Saunders in
> federal prisons right now, as we speak, for this same so-called "crime" of
> smoking marijuana or taking other drugs? These men were sent to prison for
> mere possession. They harmed no one but themselves when they took drugs.
> How can you have a crime without a victim? When does this horror stop? It
> has got to stop. I'm asking you all now to stop it right here, at least
> for Jimmy Saunders. The only thing that can stop tyrannical laws and
> politicians is you and me, juries like us. If we do nothing, we're lost,
> the country is lost."
> "I'm asking you all to bring in a not-guilty verdict, because the drug
> laws are unjust and a moral obscenity. I'm asking you all be the kind of
> Americans our Founding Fathers would have been proud of, these same men
> who fought for your liberty. That's what I'm asking of all of you."
> John Straun sat down and looked quietly at Dillard and all the others
> around the table. They looked back at him, and it seemed that their backs
> began to straighten up, and they no longer complained about going home.
> They were quiet. Then they talked passionately amongst each other.
> Fifteen minutes later, they walked into the courtroom and sat down in the
> jury box. When the judge asked Raymond Dillard what the verdict was, he
> was stunned when Dillard, standing tall, looking straight at the judge,
> said "Not guilty." Over the angry rantings of the red-faced judge, all in
> the jury box looked calmly at John Straun, and felt proud to be an
> American."
> (End of article by Joel Turtel.)
> --------------------------------------------------------------
> From Kenn d'Oudney, Director, Democracy Defined Campaign:
> The above article is excellent in my estimation. It clarifies some of the
> Jurors' duties in Trial by Jury. It illuminates the jury-room situation,
> demonstrating to readers the sovereign nature of the Juror and the
> inferior, or secondary, rĂ´le of the judge. It is educationally of great
> worth and should be forwarded to every citizen.