I originally published this at CopBlock in January of this year.
The right to a trial by jury, the last nonviolent bulwark against government tyranny, is guaranteed by the 6th amendment to the US constitution and was first grudgingly conceded to, at great cost, in the English Magna Carta of 1215.
Jurors have the inherent right and unquestionable power to judge not just the facts of a case but also the law the defendant is accused of violating. Jurors may vote to acquit a defendant if they consider that law to be unjust, or for any reason at all.
Jury nullification played an important role in the founding principles of the United States, most notably involving William Penn in 1670 and John Peter Zenger in 1735. Jury nullification also figured prominently in resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act in the 1850’s and alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s. Jury nullification is an indisputable fact of American jurisprudence that is regularly, if quietly, practiced today.
But most jurors never knew this, or have forgotten. Judges and prosecutors fly into fits of rage when people mention jury nullification because it threatens their arbitrary power. They prohibit mentions of this right within courtrooms and are known to harass jury rights activists in order to suppress the knowledge.
6 Reasons to become a Jury Rights Expert
Here are 6 reasons why Cop Block and other activists need to become jury rights experts:
- Self-Defense. Cop blocking is dangerous. Cops can harass, arrest and/or frame you, if need be, in order to stop your recording and exposing of their abuses. You need to prepare your local community to acquit you if you are framed and/or tried on trumped up or victimless charges.
- Increased Effectiveness. Jurors are legally more powerful than cops, in the final analysis. One dissenting juror in many criminal trial situations can cause a mistrial. It requires unanimity to acquit. A series of jury nullification actions, whether mistrials or acquittals, can effectively end the prosecution of certain kinds of crimes in the given jurisdiction. Jury rights activism doesn’t require that you get through to hardened cops, elusive reporters or the voters. Only one “not guilty” vote is enough to hang a jury and stop an otherwise certain conviction.
- Know the Truth. Cop Blockers are well-informed about police abuse, but do you know that the continued massive caging of people for victimless crimes, such as drug offenses, depends on jurors being blindly obedient to the judge? Did you know that judges and prosecutors hide the fact of jury nullification from jurors? Did you know that just one informed juror can stop someone from being wrongly convicted and caged, their life ruined? Did you know that a pattern of jury nullification actions can lead to the de facto nullification of unjust laws? If only jurors knew of their power, they could change everything. Everything rests on the jurors.
- Grow the Movement. It’s only after many people have had an unpleasant encounter with the police, courts and prisons that they clue in to the massive scam that’s being perpetrated against them. Jury rights activism holds the promise of freeing those unjustly accused or accused of victimless crimes. With eyes now more open, some of these people will join the movement for greater police accountability. Our movement can grow.
- Backup for Recording. What if cops frame you for something as revenge for your cop blocking activities? What if they destroy evidence, as they are wont to do? What if cops line up to testify against you, spewing lies to the judge and jury? Jurors may want to acquit you anyway but if they don’t know about jury nullification then they can’t. Jury rights activism is like a backup for your video recording.
- Judges and Prosecutors don’t Like it. Judges and prosecutors absolutely loathe jury nullification. They fight tooth and nail to get nullifiers off of juries and to ban any mention of this historical power from reaching jurors’ ears. They have been known to harass, frame and cage jury rights activists to keep this information from reaching their jury pool. Jury rights activism makes judges and prosecutors grumpy – really grumpy. It probably gives them heartburn, too. Isn’t that reason enough?
Recording cops and keeping tabs on police abuse is heroic yet unsung work but if you want to really set people free from the police-prison assembly line system, then you also need to know your jury rights and to educate others about them, as well.