A jury is more powerful and influential than most people know. It is meant to be the non-violent version of the 2nd Amendment.
A jury votes to acquit or convict a defendant of breaking the law. Everyone knows that.
But a jury is more than finders of fact.
They are finders of the law.
The government does not want you to know this. Most judges and definitely prosecutors do not want you to know this.
But I can demonstrate it is true, with one sentence: A jury cannot be punished for their verdict, and their verdict of acquittal is final.
What few people know is that trial by jury means the people have the final say over their liberty.
Case-by-case, the jury has the final say on every law.
A jury can reject a law. They can find someone “not guilty,” whether they are guilty or not.
The government cannot punish a juror for their vote.
They cannot tell jurors how to vote. They cannot coerce one juror to vote with the majority to make a jury unanimous.
The purpose of a unanimous jury is not to enforce unanimity. A judge cannot force a jury to be unanimous.
The jury is a deliberating body that requires unanimity to convict, not a majority.
One juror voting for acquittal against 11 for conviction results in a hung jury.
Let me prove the importance of the jury by giving readers a little history of the jury and what it has done for the people.
Then perhaps you will see how the power of the jury, which has not diminished, but only forgotten, still permits the people to control the government, and not vice versa.
Even the slave state of China could have freedom if they had jury trials where the verdict of the jury is final and that the jury cannot be punished, as we have in America.
And of course, that a jury can be hung, and a jury of 12 must be unanimous to convict a person of any crime.
Jury Ended the Power of Kings
In 1215, the Barons of England forced King John to sign Magna Carta.
Its greatest provision was that it guaranteed trial by jury. Before, kings could decide to punish whomever they liked.
Now the king had to seek permission from 12 citizens, unanimous in verdict, before he could take anyone’s freedom away.
That’s why we have jury trials: To protect people from the government. Judges could be finders of fact just as well, if not better, than juries. But juries are there to protect the people from bad laws and bad prosecutions. Even if the people do not understand it now, perhaps they will one day soon.
Assembly; Freedom of Religion;
A jury can’t be punished
In 1670, the English government prosecuted two Quakers, William Penn, who later founded the state of Pennsylvania, and William Mead. The two began preaching their religion, and drew a large crowd in London. They were arrested and charged with ‘unlawful and tumultuous assembly.’
The government did not approve of the Quaker religion and had laws against certain types of public assembly.
At the end of the trial, the judge instructed the jury to return a guilty verdict. Four jurors, led by Edward Bushel, refused to deliver a verdict as instructed.
The judge ordered the jury imprisoned until they returned with an acceptable verdict. For two days, the jury refused.
The judge ended the trial.
As punishment, the judge fined the jurors. Bushel refused to pay. Held in contempt, he spent months in jail.
He was released and the case was heard by Chief Justice John Vaughan at th Court of Common Pleas.
Vaughan initially tried to claim Bushel’s case could not be heard, but was ignored by other judges who issued the writ. of habeas corpus. Vaughan’s ruling reaffirmed the Common Law right of trial by jury, stating: “The jury must be independently and indisputably responsible for its verdict free from any threats from the court.”
Too bad Bushell did not obey the judge’s orders. We might have a better name for Pennsylvania, which means Penn’s forest.
How about Bidensylvania?
Juries Let Witch Go Free
The Salem witch trials began in 1692. After a splendid year-long government conviction rate and the execution of 33 witches, things went south for the government.
By May 1693, juries decided the court of Oyer and Terminer had taken things too far. They nullified the witchcraft law with 52 consecutive hung juries or acquittals.
Frustrated, prosecutors ceased bringing known witches to trial. Juries made it impossible to hang, burn, drown, immolate, decapitate or otherwise rightfully annihilate women known as witches.
Freedom of speech won by a jury.
In 1734, John Peter Zenger’s newspaper criticized the Royal Governor of New York. It was against the law to criticize the British government in Colonial America. It is still against the law to criticize the government in countries that do not have jury trials.
The Colonial British government charged Zenger with seditious libel. He was put in jail for his crime.
At his trial, Zenger’s Philadelphia lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, admitted Zenger had broken the law. How could he deny it? The evidence was right in the newspaper article.
But Hamilton asked the jury to acquit, because Zenger published the truth.
Chief Justice James Delaney disagreed. “The truth is no defense,” he said. The law is the law.
Hamilton told the jury “to make use of their own consciousness and understandings in judging of the lives, liberties or estates of their fellow subjects.”
He told the jury they “have the right, beyond all dispute, to determine both the law and the facts.”
Hamilton added that, if jurors cannot nullify laws that offend their conscience, “juries (are) useless… The next step would make the people slaves.”
The jury acquitted Zenger.
The Zenger trial transcripts were widely published; the jury’s nullification of the seditious libel act gave young America something new — freedom of the press.
The verdict encouraged literature critical of England by Franklin, Jefferson, Paine, and others.
The Colonial government found it inconvenient that it could not enforce its own law prohibiting colonists from criticizing the government. But they knew jurors would acquit those they charged.
Sure, to get freedom, the Americans had to take up arms. But the spirit to fight and the information needed to sow the seeds of discontent through the written word to stoke rebellion came from the jury and the Zenger trial.
If Zenger’s jurors had only obeyed the judge’s directions, the people of America might still enjoy British rule.
Jury Trial in the Bill of Rights
The jury’s role in Zenger’s and other Colonial trials was an important flashpoint in the history of freedom.
The framers of the Constitution envisioned that juries would continue this role of protecting freedom.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees jury trials.
Benjamin Franklin said the right of juries to judge the facts and the law, of jury nullification, is “better than law, it ought to be law, and will always be law wherever justice prevails.”
Thomas Jefferson wrote the jury is more important than voting.
He said, “Were I called upon to decide whether the people had best be omitted in the Legislative or Judiciary department, I would say it is better to leave them out of the Legislative. The execution of the laws is more important than the making [of] them.”
By this, he meant that a legislative body can only make laws, but only a jury can enforce a law, and that too only with the unanimous consent of 12 jurors.
The jury alone allows the executive branch to enforce the laws made by the legislative branch. For no one can be deprived of their freedom without the unanimous consent of 12 Americans.
Speaking of unanimity, Alexander Hamilton said about the framers of the Constitution:
“If they agree on nothing else, (they) concur at least in the value they set upon the trial by jury; or if there is any difference between them it consists of this: the former regard it as a valuable safeguard to liberty; the latter represent it as the very palladium of free government.”
Nullified the Fugitive Slave Act
There are good laws, and bad ones, and time sometimes gives to everyone a perspective that only some see when the laws are first made.
In 1850, the US Congress passed the fugitive slave law, and the president signed it.
President Millard Fillmore wanted the law enforced. After all, why make a law if you are not going to enforce it?
Congress passed the law to mollify Southern slave owners. They threatened to get their states to secede from the Union, since their two-legged property kept running away, and Woke people in the North kept helping them.
The fugitive slave law provided stiff punishment for criminals who helped slaves escape.
In Syracuse, New York, the government indicted 24 criminals who breached a jail and helped a slave breach escape.
A federal judge in Buffalo called the defendants “disturbers of society.”
Four trials ended with three acquittals. The government dropped the charges against these rioters.
In 1851, a crowd stormed a Boston courtroom and grabbed a slave, Shadrach Minkins, and turned him loose.
The judge called the defendants’ actions in that case “beyond the scope of human reason.”
President Millard Fillmore demanded prosecution of these rioters who stormed the courthouse.
A grand jury indicted three people. Daniel Webster led the prosecution. After one acquittal and several hung juries, the government gave up and dropped all the charges.
Because of these juries, a network of criminals called abolitionists organized, knowing that northern juries would not convict them, though they broke the federal fugitive slave law. They helped slaves, who after all, in the eyes of the law, were somebody’s property, escape to the north and not return.
Things got worse.
The Southern States did secede. The Civil War followed, and the Emancipation Proclamation.
If northern juries had followed the law as the judge directed, Southern plantation owners might still enjoy the low-cost labor slaves provided, in accordance with federal law.
The next time a judge tells you that you, the juror, have no right to judge the law, but must follow the law as he defines it, remember Shadrach Minkins and his poor owner who never got his property back.
Smile and nod your head and follow the law, as obedient sheeple must do.
Ain’t nobody gwine to bring him back?
Set Wild Bill Hickok free
Wild Bill Hickok and Davis Tutt engaged in a one-on-one quick draw pistol duel on July 21, 1865, in Springfield, Missouri. Tutt was killed. Hickok was charged with manslaughter.
Mutual combat was against the laws of the State of Missouri. Witnesses claimed both men fired simultaneously. There was not a question that Hickok was guilty, and as to that, so was the deceased Tutt.
But it was a question of honor. The fight was over a watch Tutt confiscated from Hickok as a claimed gambling debt.
Hickok surrendered the watch, but he declared that if Tutt wore the watch publicly, they would have to duel. Once Hickok gave Tutt this ultimatum, Tutt had no choice but to wear the watch in the middle of the street.
Now Hickok had no choice. If he hadn’t come to meet Tutt, the townsmen would have branded him a coward.
At the conclusion of the trial, Judge Sempronius Boyd instructed the jury that Missouri law was clear. Therefore, conviction was the jury’s only option under state law. Then he famously instructed the jury that they were always free to ignore written law and apply the unwritten law, in this case, of the “fair fight,” and acquit.
The jury acquitted Hickok.
Helped End Prohibition
In 1920, the US amended the Constitution to prohibit the sale of that filthy and vile liquid poison, alcohol.
During Prohibition, juries nullified alcohol control laws — about 60 percent of the time. The fact that most juries would not convict on alcohol control laws made the control of alcohol somewhat inconvenient for the government, who liked nothing more than to arrest people for consuming a beverage they and their ancestors had consumed since before there were laws.
Alcohol use was widespread throughout Prohibition.
Time and again, the police caught criminals using alcohol and criminals selling it. Catching them red-handed. Open and shut cases. Juries heard convincing evidence of men drinking and other men selling alcohol.
Criminals conspiring to break federal law by selling and buying alcohol.
The jury sat and smiled at the judge when he said, whether they agreed with the law or not, if the evidence showed the defendant broke the law, they had to find him guilty.
They’d retire to deliberate, and come back 10 minutes later and acquit.
Then go out and have a drink.
Members of the jury after acquitting a defendant for selling alcohol.
After the government toiled so hard to pass an amendment, juries forced the government to do another one, the 21st, repealing Prohibition.
If only the jurors obeyed the judges and followed the law, or if judges could have punished jurors for their wrong verdicts, alcohol would have remained illegal. By now, America would be free of alcohol, much like we are free of drugs.
We have to always remember that throughout all history, a government is always right. At least, I do not recall an instance when the government ever admitted it was wrong.
Whether you like it or not, you, as a juror, have the right to vote in the jury box, just as you can vote in the ballot box – for whomever you want. Defendant of the prosecution.
Nobody can even ask you why, let alone punish you.
You might not believe, but it is true. And you can prove it to yourself merely by learning more about jury nullification.
[…] See: The Power of the Jury Is Little Known; Meant to Be as Important as Voting […]
Very useful and timely to post this. Courts are finally catching up from covid shut-downs and lots of jury trials are scheduled all over the country this year. I was called for jury service a week ago. Before I went, I refreshed myself on jury nullification, including reading a 2020 article here on the Frank Report about this same topic (https://frankreport.com/2020/03/05/lessons-in-liberty-jury-nullification-set-wild-bill-hickok-free-although-he-killed-a-man/) and my rights under my state’s constitution.
I wasn’t picked. I never am. I didn’t even get as far as voir dire. Oh well. I will be prepared for when they call again.
There are some who say jurors should be as coy as prosecutors and not reveal all they know.
You got that right. Reminds me of the one time I actually got to go through voir dire for jury selection and a prosecutor’s attempt at being coy. At the start, the ADA got up and introduced himself and his co-ADA but didn’t introduce a woman in a business suit sitting at the prosecutor’s table. The defense then intro’d himself and co-counsel as well as the defendant. Then the questions to us prospective jurors began, with some folks being weeded out as we went along. After that was over, the potential jurors that were left were allowed to ask questions of the attorneys. I opted to ask who the mystery woman was at the prosecutors’ table. I was informed that she was the arresting officer – out of uniform. I then went on to ask why she was allowed into the jury selection process when she is also a witness and why she wasn’t in uniform. All the attorneys froze for a second and looked at the judge in hopes he would explain. He did not. Defense counsel quickly pipes up and says, “this is what the judge allowed.” I could sense there was tension among them about this issue. Nothing further was said in this regard and we moved on to other juror’s questions. Shortly thereafter I was dismissed from service. Lesson here – call out that prosecutor on their coyness – and question everything! I may not have gotten picked but they all know I was wise to their tricks.
The problem with intelligent jurors revealing their intelligence is that they get excused, and then their skill and intelligence are lost during the trial.
Very true. Guess we have to find that balance. Always trying to seek the right path.
Such good information. Thank you.
Can we please formalize the spelling as “Deadenders”? I have seen “dead enders”, “dead-enders”, and “deadenders”. For fucks sake, let’s all get on the same goddamned page. We look almost as foolish as the Deadenders by not having this nailed down.
Pilgrim, I know many people want to illiterate them from Frank Report, but we need consistent spelling. I depreciate your comment, Pilgrim.
I wasn’t aware that jury verdicts always had to be unanimous in the US. In England and Wales there is judicial discretion in certain cases where a judge will accept a majority verdict of 12-2 or 9-1. With 9 or fewer jurors, verdicts must be unanimous. Failure to reach the majority may result in a retrial. In scotland there is an additional verdict of ‘not proven’, which is neither guilty nor not guilty, though the defendant is acquitted.
Of course the problem with the US system is that justice may become politicised, and this can lead to a situation where securing a conviction may not be possible even where the evidence is overwhelming. In such cases one might come to the conclusion that certain people with a sufficiently high profile are effectively above the law: in theory a president may be impeached, though in practice the impeachment process has never removed a president.
The reason for 12 jurors and one juror is sufficient to hang the jury is that no law should be enforced without the consensus of the people. If even one out of 12 jurors [like 9 percent] disagree with a law, it cannot be enforced. Thus, while the minority cannot pass legislation, the majority cannot enforce the law to restrict the liberty of the people. Twelve was a very significant number – we have 12 hours then start again. We have 12 months. 12 signs of the zodiac.
It represents fullness or completeness. 12 represents the people as a whole. For out of 12 random jurors generally, we get a cross-section of people. And a jury trial is considered a trial by the country or a trial by the people as opposed to a trial by the government.
It’s certainly a system that works well in defending against unjust laws, though the disadvantage is that it also defends against the conviction of unjust people popularly endorsed by a large section of the population.
Unfortunately, many of those same people can have little respect for the law itself, and perhaps even less for the jury system when it doesn’t go their way (no names!)
Oh and Jesus had 12 apostles.
What a great post. Full of historic examples of the function of jury’s. I didn’t know these examples and the power of jury’s and the influence they had on (abolishing) legislation in the past. Really very interesting information!
In Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial, the jury was handed an 80 page document full of rules what they could and couldn’t consider when formulating a verdict. In my view, the judge handed over a puzzle to the jury. This would be a difficult task, even for law professors, let alone for randomly selected people that make up the jury.
So everybody knows the jury doesn’t understand the better part of this 80 page directive and will look at the evidence presented at trial and their gut feeling.
In this system it thus pays out if the prosecution can portray the defendant as a really bad person. Of course, the prosecution needs to present evidence of a crime committed, but it’s a good strategy to make the defendant as disagreeable as you possibly can. Make the jury really hate the guy/woman. In Rainiere’s and in Ghislaine’s case this wasn’t so difficult to do.
Because you ask the jury to take this directive from the judge into account, and everybody knows this is impossible in an average jury setup, I thought this jury system in America is no good. But, as the historic examples Frank has presented show us, the jury system worked out great in key cases in the past. So, I can see the advantages now. But it’s not perfect. Nothing is.
The jury is – even today – the palladium – of liberty. The government knows it cannot go too far for they always have to ask themselves – will the jury be offended? They may know the judge, know his or her inclinations. They can even judge shop — it is done all the time. But a jury cannot be predicted.
The issue is that few know the power of the jury, and they think they are only their to judge the facts and not the law or the motives of the prosecution. The jury is a better solution to the unjust government than the use of force. As we can see, the jury often sets the stage for force by vetoing laws — as it did in both the revolutionary and civil wars.
Love the quote by John Adams. Powerful article with great reminders to all of us.
This is the word that needs to get out. Jury trials are practically obsolete and they are the only way to save our freedoms and secure Justice.
Thank you – circulate this article. It’s critical at this time.
Many people don’t practice their civic duty. Just as many don’t vote. They think they will change the government by spending their life acting like a jackass to their neighbors and fellow citizens on social media.
Wonder how many nxivm dead-enders so quick after Raniere’s conviction to claim that they are justice system advocates ever have served on a jury?
America’s greatest resource is Americans. If you are an American your greatest resource is other Americans.
That is why it is so important to destructive outside forces to turn your fellow Americans against each other. Don’t play. You are giving up your country. Not to a perceived, wrongful “other party” but to those outside of your country who wish to see it fall. By dividing the country’s people and turning those people (America’s greatest asset) against each other.
Don’t do what they want. Put your country and its founding principles first. No matter how annoying (and they are so fucking annoying) the “other” Americans can be. They are your greatest asset. You will lose your country if you lose sight of this simple and important reality.
And vote. And serve on a jury.
And stop this petty infighting for the sake of petty infighting.
You’re all pretty. okay?
Knock it off.
This is supposed to be some kind of secret???
That defendants have a right to trial by jury is hardly some little known secret. Everybody knows this. Well, everybody except some right wing loons who’ve convinced themselves that our perfidious government decides who’s guilty. And of course Raniere’s loyal dead enders, who shun the inconvenient fact that their asshole hero was convicted by a jury’s unanimous verdict and not by the media and the FBI.
All it takes is one person on a jury to believe you shouldn’t go to jail, and you don’t go to jail. That’s a pretty liberal and enlightened system. (Sorry, conspiracy theorists)
The Party of Pedophiles (Democrats) want to eliminate juries and just lock their political opponents up like in Soviet Russia and release PEDOS from prison. They were infuriated when the jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse for his self defense against Pedophile Joseph Rosenbaum. They truly earned the name “Party of Pedophiles” with that one.
Good article. I didn’t know about the group of people who freed the slaves in Boston. Very interesting .
Anyone have thoughts on the Democrats supporting PEDOS?
Are you a pedo Pilgrim?
No, I am not. I want to end Pedophilia, not facilitate it like so many in power do. Starting with Joe Biden.
Straight up lies.