Do you think any of O.J. Simpson's murder trial jury members had any fear at all on whether to vote, "not guilty"? I don't believe so. They had more than one high-powered attorney tell them they could vote to acquit, and that's just what they did.
Chief Justice John Jay - Painting by John Trumball
Unfortunately, many citizens caught up in jury trials where a guilty decision could remove for life their right to keep and bear arms don't have that luxury. Their defense lawyers (often state-provided ones), have no interest in dragging out the trial, and no real guts to forcefully state their case, especially at closing arguments.
As a consequence, jury members will fear the judge (who is usually in bed, figuratively of course, with the prosecutor), believing that they must convict, and that is a fear I will explain right here and now you should never have in the courtroom or jury room, no matter how overbearing the judge may appear.
First of all, many judges that handle criminal cases, even though they may seem like nice people, are liars. Yes, that's a strong statement, but it's true, and I can prove it.
The next time you are seated on a jury, ask the judge if you have the right to nullify (vote "not guilty" even if everyone else votes "guilty") the verdict. Most likely, you will be lied to and told that you cannot. However, only ask that question if you really don't want to serve.
If a defense attorney quoted that this right from the Georgia Constitution during closing arguments, he'd get a contempt of court order slapped against him, or at least a strong verbal lashing from the judge with a warning not to do it again.
Even in those states where this right is not spelled out, you still have the right to judge the law itself. There is no law which provides any penalties for any jury member voting his or her conscience.
This very right is what the First Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Jay, confirmed:
“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. (emphasis mine)
In other words, let's say you agree with the prosecutor that the facts are true as presented, but you disagree with the law, that it is either too vague to apply justly, or is altogether an unjust law. Then it becomes your duty to confidently state, "not guilty", without hesitation.
Back in the 50's some cities in the South had ordinances that Blacks may only drink from the "colored-only" water fountains. Were a Black woman to appear in court on a charge of violating that ordinance, you could agree that she did it as to the facts, but you'd also have to agree that the law was wrong, and therefore vote to acquit.
Several years ago a judge lied to me during "voir dire", or jury selection. It was for a murder case. The judge told me I'd have to rule according to his judgement of what the law is, and he asked me if I could do that. Talk about jury intimidation!
You most likely will be asked that in open court as well, in front of friends, enemies, and who knows who else. Here's what to do:
Smile and say, "Yes, your honor, I can do that". You are not lying, you are merely assuming (but do not discuss this with the judge, just answer the question) that the judge agrees with ALL the law, including the U.S. Constitution. Then in your own mind, later give your "not guilty" verdict based on your understanding of the U.S. Constitution, which will be the correct one, if you view the Constitution as limiting the powers of government, rather than limiting the rights of citizens. How are you supposed to read the judge's mind? It is not your obligation to do so.
How are you to handle your fellow jury members that are all slobbering at the bit to convict a fellow citizen and send them away to prison so they can get home to dinner early? Here's how:
1. Talk slowly and take leisurely breaths. This helps you by keeping you calm and keeping your train of thought.
2. If you are interrupted, stop talking and attentively listen. Then start back over again from the beginning of your point, going slowly. Eventually, they will get tired of interrupting you and let you finish your point.
3. Now, make your point. Here's how: "Ladies and gentlemen, I simply do not feel that the state has made its case, and therefore must respectively disagree and vote to acquit."
4. Let the other jury members bring up points (you don't have to prove why you feel the way you do), and they will, to try and convince you otherwise. Listen without interrupting them, and slowly nod your head, pause, and then state, "Yes, you make some good points, but I'm not totally convinced by that evidence. I still have some reasonable doubt about that. After all, eyewitness may not lie, but they may not have seen things exactly as they may have thought to have seen them."
5. If your fellow jury members, the prosecutor, or the judge accuses you of pulling a "nullification stunt", look surprised and state, "I'm willing to discuss, deliberate, and debate this case as long as we need to in order to reach a unanimous verdict. I'm confident I can get everyone to come around to my point of view in order to reach a 'not guilty' verdict."
Do not shut down and refuse to participate. Be as slow and methodical as you wish, but prod on. If you refuse to deliberate, the judge will seize on the chance to replace you with an alternate juror ready to do his bidding to throw the defendant in jail or prison.
Friends, there is NO law anywhere in these United States of America where you can get in any trouble at all for giving a contrary verdict. You do not have to go along with the majority.
As long as you are In that jury box, you are equal in power to the judge himself. For if you don't give a guilty vote, he doesn't get to punish the state's prisoner, and the prisoner gets to go free, or at the very least gets another trial if there is a hung jury. Usually, the kinds of example cases I'm going to discuss below get thrown out at the first hung jury.
Case #1: A citizen in a store has an uncovered, holstered pistol on his hip and is talking to his friend. He tells his friend, "In this state you can carry openly without a license". A police officer happens to overhear that, and investigates finding that the citizen indeed does not have a license to carry. It turns out that carrying openly without a license in that state applies only to long guns, but not pistols, so the citizen gets arrested and charged with a weapons offence. He faces up to a year in jail (which will cost him his job and house, as his wife doesn't have employment, and he has three children to support), a $1000 fine, and he will be banned for 5 years from applying for a carry license.
Yes, the defendant made a mistake. Not everyone is a lawyer, but the prosecution and the judge will still wag their fingers and state that ignorance of the law is no excuse. You've got all the facts you need to convict, so convict him, right?
Well, there are a couple of other things to consider. Would the Founding Fathers who penned the Second Amendment protecting our right to keep and bear arms agree with that? Also, does a citizen who merely wants to not be killed by a criminal have to be put behind bars like a dangerous caged animal, lose his job, his house and possibly his marriage, just because the state has taken a Constitutional Right and turned it into a poll tax permission slip?
Are you folks getting the idea here? I certainly hope so! Vote "NOT GUILTY"!
Yes, the young man is an idiot, but one day he will be a contributing member of society (not guaranteed, but very possible) with a wife and children. Should he be banned from having the means to protect them from criminals? Banned for life for youthful mistakes, from ever possessing a firearm as an adult?
Case #4: A snitch reports on a man who has a few marijuana plants. The citizen gets his door busted in by police looking more like armored up soldiers, who find a pistol and a shotgun, along with the greenery. He now faces drug and weapons charges. Felonies that will put him away for 10 - 20 years in many states.
The judge acknowledges in court that the man grew the plants because he could not afford to go out of state to purchase cannabis oil for his sick son, who suffers seizures almost constantly without the drug. But helping a sick child is no excuse. The law is the law.
Really? By now I do hope you are thinking this thing through!
Case #5: A young lady who had been robbed and beaten twice before gets a gun, and gets a license to carry it. She drives to another state thinking they would honor her firearms license, you know, just like our drivers licenses are honored by other states. She ADMITS her gun is in her glove-box at a traffic stop and gets arrested for a FELONY facing years in prison. She was CONVICTED, but fortunately, the Governor gives her a pardon. This case example is a true story.
I wonder if the judge even allowed evidence in the court that she had been robbed and beaten. Probably not. Know that as a juror, the judge will withhold ANY evidence he can that would make you sympathetic toward the defendant, unless he absolutely has to admit it as evidence directly linked to the "facts".
Let's do what we can to change laws that abuse people and treat them like cattle. But in the meantime, as long as laws like that are on the books, we do have a way to protect people.
Now I know that marijuana, or even gun ownership may not be your thing. But the point is to be a shield to your fellow citizens against the unlimited, tax-payer funded resources of the government. I know it's tempting to use that power to control others using the force of government and its armed agents, but often the consequences of doing so are unjust cruelty to others. We are our brothers and sisters keepers, after all.
Judges will lie to you and either imply or directly tell you they are the ones that rule the court, and that your only role is to rubber stamp a guilty verdict, as long as the facts show the defendant did it.
However, you have the real power. And once you use the power of nullification (don't even whisper that word to anyone while waiting to be examined for your chance to be on a jury), it will feel so good putting the government in its place that you will want to do it again.
Do you want a smug judge to wave you away with his hand at the end of a trial because you obeyed his order to send your fellow citizen to jail? Imagine if you were that citizen. You would want at least one person to stand up for you, wouldn't you?
Remember, undercover government informants entrap citizens every single day using our tax money to fund their operations.
During the era of prohibition, thousands of cases were brought against adults for possessing, serving, or having an alcoholic drink. Yet comparatively, there were few convictions. Most juries simply voted to acquit even though the law said the defendants were guilty. The law was unjust and most everyone understood that. That led to the law being repealed.