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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jury nullification

First, a bit of context. RAW's Chaos and Beyond, a pretty good book which the RAW estate has inexplicably allowed to go out of print, includes a RAW essay, "Jury Nullification: Freedom's Last Chance." The lead paragraph says, "An old idea has resurfaced that may have major potential to slow or even reverse the terrifying erosion of the Bill of Rights under the Reagan-Bush Team and their right-wing Supreme Court. I refer to the revival of the ancient Saxon doctrine of Jury Nullification which has not become a projected Constitutional amendment under consideration in 22 states." (The book, dedicated to Robert Shea, was published in 1994).

From Reason's Web site: A jury in Kansas rebels against a marijuana prosecution and forces the dismissal of the case. (I missed the original posting, so thanks Nick Helweg-Larsen.)

In that 1990s essay, Wilson urges his readers to write to an organization in Montana named FIJA that backs jury nullification rights. An Internet search reveals that the Fully Informed Jury Association is still going strong and still maintains a headquarters in Montana, although it offers contact information for supporters in other states.

UPDATE: In the comments, anonymous notes that the RAW essay I mention is available online.


Anonymous said...

I heard that folks in the US got arrested just handing out fliers about it outside courts!

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Yes, I blogged about it:

Anonymous said...

ah damn my genetic memory for forgetting the source - D'oh!

Anonymous said...

Beware of openly speaking out on this issue or joining FIJA -- because some judges do ask about these things during jury selection (or Google potential jurors) and it would be nice if you manage to get on the jury without their knowing.

Also, be careful what you say even after you are selected. While attempts to punish jurors for nullifying have not stood up on appeal, judges can and will dismiss you from the jury and seat an alternate if they decide you're trying to do it. There is no right to be on a jury panel.

Anonymous said...

Looked up the RAW essay on jury nullification and found it here:

I'll see about linking to it from our website.

Also, a quick note that September 5 is Jury Rights Day! Jury Rights Day commemorates the William Penn case mentioned in the above linked essay. More information can be found there and on our website.

Kirsten C. Tynan
Fully Informed Jury Association