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Bud Landry

Why A Fully Informed Jury?
By Bud Landry
Apr 5, 2005 - 7:19:00 AM

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A Fully Informed Jury brought to an end, in the 1690s the Salem witch trials, when fully informed juries of the day refused to convict fifty times. The government, finally made to understand that the people thought little of the law, abandoned the law under which they werre being prosecuted.

In 1670, William Penn was arrested in London for preaching a Quaker sermon, thus breaking a law that made the Church of England the only legal church. His jurors, led by Edward Bushell, refused to convict him, despite being held for days without food, water, tobacco, or toilet facilities - and being fined. The four most defiant jurors were put in prison for nine weeks. The highest court of England, upon releasing the defiant jurors, both acknowedged and established that jurors could not be punished for their verdicts. Recognition of our freedoms of religion, peaceable assembly and speech can thus all be traced to the excercise of Fully Informed Jury power, wielded by juries unintimidated by government judges.

In 1735, John Peter Zenger was arrested for sedition when he printed the truth about the corrupt practices of the of the Royal Governor of New York. While the charges made by Zenger were true, the jury was told that under the law, the truth was no defense. Zenger's attorney, Andrew Hamilton, argued to the jury that they were judges of the merit of the law and should not go against good conscience to convict Zenger of volating such bad law. The jurors agreed. Zenger was acquitted in about fifteen minutes, and his case, with a Fully Informed Jury, helped to establish the right to freedom of the press.

In 1789, Thomas Jefferson said in a letter to Thomas Paine: "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet devised by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of it's Constitution."

John Adams, America's second president, said in 1771: "It is not only [the jurors] right, but it is his duty ... to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgement, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court."

Without the power to decide what facts, law and evidence are applicable, juries cannot be a protection to the accused. If people acting in the name of government are permitted by jurors to dictate any law whatever, they can also unfairly dictate what evidence is admissable or inadmissable and thereby prevent the Whole Truth from being considered. Thus, if government can manipulate and control both the law and the evidence, the issue of fact becomes virtually irrelevant. In reality, true justice would be denied, leaving the people with a trial by government and not a trial by jury.

In Oak Park, Illinois, a few years ago, a gas station owner drew a gun to defend himself against an armed robbery. Oak Park has a handgun ban, so the prosecuter threw the book at the gas station owner. A Fully Informed Jury speedily acquited him, although the facts seemed to clearly prove the station owner was guilty. Was the jury acting illegally? Not at all. The jury was simply excercising it's power to judge the law as well as the facts. The jury apparently determined that, in this particular case, it would be unjust to punish the gas station owner for violating the handgun prohibition.

Which of the people in the examples above would our fourteen Judiciary Committee members in Augusta have found Guilty?

-- Bud

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