Power of the Jury
Updated: Jul 11
In the year 1804, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase was impeached for denying a jury’s right to judge law. In the entire history of the U.S. Supreme Court he alone holds this dubious distinction. Why? Because he refused to acknowledge that the jury has the right to defy an unjust law or change against anyone, and ultimately holds more power than the judges and the prosecutors.
Theophilus Parsons explains: „The people themselves have it in their power to resist usurpation without an appeal to arms. An act of usurpation is not obligatory; it is not law; and any man might be justified in his resistance. Let him be considered a criminal by the general government, yet only his fellow citizens can convict him; they are his jury; and if they pronounce him innocent, not all the powers of Congress can hurt him; and innocent they certainly will pronounce him, if the supposed law he resisted was an act of usurpation.“
Typically a judge will refuse to tell jurors about their option to veto unjust or misapplied laws, and often dismiss potential jurors who let the court know they are aware of this power. In some cases, if a judge finds out that a juror is nullifying, he will remove him or her, declaring a mistrial or allowing the remaining jurors to decide the case.
Another thing a judge neglects to inform the potential jurors of is that there is nothing in the U. S. Constitution, or in any Supreme Court decision, that requires them to take an oath to follow the law as the judge gives it to them. In fact, there aren‘t any laws requiring judges to "instruct" jurors at all. Both of these are likely to take place as the juror is sworn in and "instructed“ in the "duties" as a juror. These are elements of "court procedure", but the juror is in no way required to be "obedient" – because the jurors are the most powerful players in the courtroom. To do their duty (both judicial and political), a juror must remain independent, and treat oaths and instructions as advice, not as rules.
"It is not only the jurors right, but their duty to find the verdict according top his own best understanding, judgement and conscience, though in direct opposition to the instruction of the court."; John Adams 1771.
Prosecutors are more concerned with winning than with actual justice. Prosecutors are known to "multiply charges", so that the defendant will be charged with breaking many laws, or many "counts" of the same law, in order to persuade the jury that s/he "must be guilty of something."But sadly a great mistake a juror can make is to betray their conscience and judgement by making that assumption of guilt.
A fair, impartial, and conscientious juror should think what they would want to happen, if someone they knew or loved were to be in this exact situation. A situation where their loved one has no physical evidence linking them to the crime, and the only „eye-witness“ is a vengeful ex who has made a deal with the prosecution. A deal in which their charges will be dismissed, if they testify against the defendant.
There are so many factors involved in a case that a juror cannot know all the facts, and in fact, because there is no prosecutorial accountability, evidence known to prosecutors and police that point towards the defendants actual innocence is "lost", hidden, or even "mistakenly destroyed."
Judges and prosecutors use a bully pulpit when they "instruct" and remind the jury that they "must" render a verdict based on the law "as explained to them". All the while not revealing the evidence in favor of the defense, and not letting the jury know what they really have the power to do, or not.
For the defendant to even bring JURY NULLIFICATION to the attention of the jury is more often than not grounds for contempt. Simply informing a jury about their veto power is duly protected by the First Amendment. This suppression (oppression?) was given credence in the year 1895 when Sparf and Hansen v. U. S., a bitter split decision by the U. S. Supreme Court, held that failure of the judge to remind jurors of their powers was not basis for a mistrial or appeal. This was the okay for judges to stop explaining JURY NULLIFICATION to juries, and to forbid defense lawyers to tell them.
In any case where a person‘s freedom is at stake and even more-so when a person‘s life is, shouldn‘t the jury be fully informed? Just as important to those juries whose "duty" it is to decide whether they will condemn a person to death or free them, should be why they are intentionally not being fully informed.
"If the jury have no right to judge of the justice of a law of the government, they plainly can do nothing tp protect the people against the oppressions of that government, for there are no oppressions which the government may not authorize by law."