Friday, September 01, 2006

Vigilante justice, or just justice

Jonathon Edington, when hearing from his wife that his 2-year-old daughter was molested by Barry James, climbed through his window and stabbed him in the chest nearly a dozen times. Edington was charged with murder and burglary and was released on $1 million bail.

I read the article, and from what I read, Edington, age 29, was a fine, outstanding young person. He was a computer geek, but harmless. He has no criminal record, just a husband who loves his daughter.

James, age 58, however, was a psycho. Police spoke to Edington, complaining that he can see James through the window. Police captain Gary MacNamara said, "Either [James] was partly clothed or revealed parts of his anatomy that were inappropriate."

James served two days in jail for drunk driving charge, and he is trouble with the other neighbors. When Edington found out about his daughter, he snapped.

I still believe that the trial in front of an impartial jury is the best form of justice known to mankind. Now, I don't have all the evidence to find Edington guilty or not guilty, but the jury has all the evidence for sure. If I was a part of Edington's jury (or anyone else's jury), I would be a Fully Informed and Educated Juror, who understands the jury's power to judge the facts, the law, the moral intent of the defendant, and the justice of the law; rather than only judge the facts alone, and the judge judges the rest, in spite of what the judge says. In Lysander Spooner's famous book, "An Essay on the Trial by Jury" , he will show "what the Common Law trial by jury really is." This book, written in the 1800s, is as vital and significant as when he wrote it--and perhaps more important to today's reader because of changes made within the court system (but not the legal system) in the past century. This is a very short book, but it covers a very important and neglected part of the limitation of government power: the trial by jury.

In the book's first three paragraphs, Spooner said it best:

For more than six hundred years [make it eight hundred years]--that is, since Magna Carta, in 1215--there has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law, than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the fact, what is the law, and what was the moral intent of the accused; BUT THAT IT IS ALSO THEIR RIGHT, AND THEIR PRIMARY AND PARAMOUNT DUTY, TO JUDGE OF THE JUSTICE OF THE LAW, AND TO HOLD ALL LAWS INVALID, THAT ARE, IN THEIR OPINION, UNJUST OR OPPRESSIVE, AND ALL PERSONS GUILTLESS IN VIOLATING, OR RESISTING THE EXECUTION OF, SUCH LAWS.

Unless such be the right and duty of jurors, it is plain that, instead of juries being a "palladium of liberty"--a barrier against the tyranny and oppression of the government--they are really mere tools in its hands, for carrying into execution any injustice and oppression it may desire to have executed.

But for their right to judge of the law, AND THE JUSTICE OF THE LAW, juries would be no protection to an accused person, EVEN AS TO MATTERS OF FACT; for, if the government can dictate to a jury any law whatever, in a criminal case, it can dictate to them the laws of evidence. That is, it can dictate what evidence is admissible, and what inadmissible, AND ALSO WHAT FORCE OR WEIGHT IS TO BE GIVEN TO THE EVIDENCE ADMITTED. And if the government can thus dictate to a jury the laws of evidence, it can not only make it necessary for them to convict on a partial exhibition of the evidence rightfully pertaining to the case, but it can even require them to convict on any evidence whatever that it pleases to offer them.

Enough said! Now, I will say it again: the facts in this case are not presented, and I will have an open mind until the case is closed. But if I was Edington's juror, and the evidence was presented to me as I have read them; even if the state proves Edington did it beyond a reasonable doubt, my verdict would be "not guilty", and worse, if all other jurors found him guilty, there would be a mistrial; and best, Edington would walk a free man. That is the power of one educated and informed juror.


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