Sunday, February 26, 2006

The fully informed jury

Which agency has the inalienable right to ignore the judge, ignore attorneys, keep honest people out of prison, render the verdict how they see fit, to be the most powerful force in the courtroom, and thus, keeping our government honest and humble. What is this agency? It is no other than the fully informed and educated jury. I say "informed and educated jury" because when you on the jury, and you are not informed and not educated, you will obey the judge, no questions asked. And if the judge tells you that you judge only the facts and the judge judges the rest, he (or she) is lying to you through his teeth. He is lying about the true nature of your power. This statement is the God's-honest truth: when your on the jury, you have the right, as well as the duty, to judge the facts, to judge the law, to judge the moral intent of the accused, as well as to judge the justice of the law, and to render all defendants not guilty when the laws are unconscionable, immoral, or unjust. And the prosecutors and the judge, cannot change the verdict; the verdict is final.

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads (in part), "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed". The jury is there in the Constitution, but I don't see the judge. I wonder why? Maybe it is that the judge doesn't have the ability to render a verdict of guilt for the defendant in any case; i.e., not the facts, nor the law.

Now, wait a minute! You say, "Thomas, you are not a lawyer, so what do you know?" You are right: I am not a lawyer (i.e., I haven't received a bar license). But, I am knowledgeable about the basic concepts of the law. I am interested in the law, I represented my company in court, I served on a jury, as well as I watched many law drama shows and movies in my life. I know the basic order from the beginning to end of a jury case: first, it's voir dire to select the 12 jurors, then it's opening statements, then it's the prosecutor's witness(es), then it's the defense attorney's witness(es), then it's closing arguments, jury instructions by the judge, jury deliberation, and the verdict. Only the jury can go to the deliberation room; not the prosecutor, not the defense's attorney(s), and not the judge. If they want to ask a question, the jury will write it down and give it to the bailiff, and he (or she) will give it to the judge. And, like I said before, the verdict is final. What if the jury disregards the instructions? What if the jury takes the evidence that the jury banned? There is nothing the judge can do. He would have no choice but to release the jury, and if the jury's verdict was not guilty, he would have no choice but to release the defenant. The jury is ultimately in charge.

Trial by jury goes way back to the Magna Carta. The Great Charter says (in clause 39), "No freeman shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or his possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we [the king] proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land." Even today, no one--lawyers and judges--disputes that American juries have the power to nullify bad laws through an acquittal of the defendant. And through the 19th century, judges told the juries the truth. But, when it started with the infamous Sparf and Hansen v. U.S. [1894], the judge was given permission to not tell the juries of the power to nullify or veto bad laws. And the juries bought it. Since then, because on the people's ignorance and passivity, judges have shifted to actively lying, bluffing, and fragrantly tampering with the jury. The truth is the jury has a lot more power than the judge is admitting.

The best example is the criminal case of O.J. Simpson. Now, a part of me thinks he is guilty. Of American's opinion polls, a vast majority of you agrees with a part of me. Others say he's innocent. While others say, "I really don't care", which another part of me agrees with. But it doesn't matter if I offer a judgment on Simpson. It doesn't matter if you judge Simpson. Neither are the attorneys, nor even the judge. All that matters is the 12 people legally to be on his jury. Only they have the ultimite judgment on Simpson's verdict. Maybe the jurors truly believe Simpson is innocent, or the prosecutors didn't find him guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt". Or maybe the jurors think he is guilty, but hey, it's O.J., "The Juice", Heisman trophy winner out of USC (or, in the late '60s, "UOJ"); they wouldn't find the football star guilty. While others think they did this to him because he is black (however, three jurors weren't black). Whatever the case might be, all that mattered was Simpson was found not guilty, and thus, Simpson walked a free man, and there is nothing Martha Clark or Christopher Darden, or even Lance Ito can do.

Jacob Hornberger has two articles (here and here) can best explain what trial by jury truly is. Unlike me, Hornberger is an accomplished attorney who practiced law in southern Texas until he left the practice to become the director of programs at The Foundation for Economic Education. In 1989 until today, he is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation, my favorite website (and Hornberger is my favorite author). Like he said (and I believe), trial by jury is one of our most cherished safeguards of liberty. I want the jury to be fully informed.

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