The idea of jury nullification is generally viewed as an abuse of power by twelve citizens whose only legitimate role is to apply the law as given to them by a judge to the facts that they find in a case. Yet it has not always been so. There are legal, historical, and philosophical arguments to justify a jury’s right—as opposed to its inherent power—to nullify the judge’s instructions on the law. ~ David Farnham, Former Senior Trial Attorney, Office of Consumer Litigation, US Department of Justice—Civil Division, 1999.
“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” – Thomas Jefferson
It has been close two years since I wrote an article, On Jury Nullification and Rape. In it I used all the information I could find to articulate a condensed, 3,500 word examination of the investigative, prosecutorial and legislative components of how we handle alleged sexual assaults within our criminal justice system. That examination resulted in a multiplicity of very disturbing observations. In distilled form, my conclusion was, and remains, that the handling of alleged rapes, from the original accusations, to police investigations, to the ensuing prosecutions, and indeed many questionable irregularities in the laws themselves are systemically wrought with what can only be called corruption.
We have a system that is past broken. False accusations are rampant and go largely unpunished. As documented in the first article, police investigations are often tainted with misconduct or incompetence, as are criminal prosecutions. Rape shield laws have been documented to withhold crucial evidence regarding the credibility of alleged victims, as well as fostering courtroom practices that are clearly prejudicial to juries.
The system is so bad that it rewards and advances prosecutors like Mary Kellett, Jody Vaughn and David Corisica. The list goes on and on, disgustingly, revealing a culture of prosecutorial misconduct where those sworn to seek justice instead go after men they have every reason to believe are innocent, do so unrepentantly, and feverishly resist efforts to correct the injustices they have inflicted on innocent persons.
In a stable, self-correcting society, attention would be drawn to these problems and efforts to ameliorate them employed. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened. In the scant time since I penned the original article, the Supreme Court has ruled that no matter what a prosecutor does; witness tampering, withholding evidence, even suborning perjury, the victim of their crimes has no legal recourse against them.
Add to that the fact that the FBI redefined the meaning of rape after a series of closed door meetings. Those definitions now make consensual sex a rape if the woman has ingested alcohol, even if the man was also intoxicated. Consider, too, that colleges and universities have been instructed by the justice department to reduce the burden of proof in alleged sexual assault cases to the “preponderance of evidence” rule, as opposed to the “reasonable doubt” standard, eliminating the possibility of an accused rapist to get a fair hearing on campus. Where it concerns the allegation of sexual crimes in this country, we no longer have a system of criminal justice. What we have is a system of state induced criminal tyranny that has become a malignancy eating through the fabric of our system of justice.
When the government becomes an instrument of tyranny against its own people, it becomes the responsibility of the people to put an end to it, by whatever means are at their disposal. Fortunately, our founding fathers possessed the wisdom to construct a constitution that empowered the people to do that within the framework of the law.
It is called “Jury Nullification,” and it has a long standing history of use within our criminal justice system. Sometimes that use was to poor ends, as when all-white juries summarily acquitted white defendants for crimes committed against black citizens. It has also been used to challenge and protest government actions; to put the law’s application, or the law itself, on trial.
“It is not only [the juror's] right, but his duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.” ~ John Adams
Jury nullification has been employed in a variety of ways. In the mid 1800’s, northern juries practiced nullification in prosecutions brought against individuals accused of harboring slaves in violation of the Fugitive Slave Laws. In the Prohibition Era of the 1930s, many juries practiced nullification in prosecutions brought against individuals accused of violating alcohol control laws. Jury nullification has also been used in cases regarding gun laws and as apparent retaliation for the so called “War on Drugs.” Activists for gay rights have encouraged its use against anti-sodomy laws.
It is with consideration of the dire need for legal reform and reconstruction; for accountability of state functionaries and for constitutional integrity in applying the law, that AVfM launches the Movement to End Legal Tyranny (M.E.L.T.). It is now the editorial policy of this website to advocate for all men and women to become educated about the ongoing, systemic corruption it the legal system, and to provide them with knowledge and applicability of jury nullification in matters where the state has lost all contact with the concept of justice.
We will be authoring, and soliciting for, many more articles in the future that address this subject, with the aim of informing fellow citizens that while their “right” to practice jury nullification may be in question, depending on who you ask, the power to practice it is without question in the hands of the juror. When you sit on a jury, you are the law for all practical purposes. That is a critical reality in a time when the legal system has abandoned its responsibility to pursue justice.
The image used at the top of this page is freely available for distribution across any other blogs or websites that share our concerns. We would appreciate your linking that image back to his article.
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- A Message for Feminists and the Halifax Police Department - March 25, 2014
- AVFM Spring 2014 Fundraiser - March 25, 2014