Twelve Facts Jurors Are Not Supposed to Know

By John "Birdman" Bryant

Note: Supporting material for the facts cited below are given
at the following Internet websites:,

Fact: Jurors have a right to judge the law itself, and to refuse to convict
if they believe the law is wrong (ie, unjust, unworkable, invalid,
irrational, misapplied, etc).  This principle, called jury nullification or
jury veto power, has been established in English and American legal
tradition since the 17th century, and until about 1895 juries were
routinely reminded of this fact by judges.  In the present day, however,
trial judges often falsely tell jurors that their only job is to decide if
the 'facts' are sufficient to convict, and that if so, they 'should' or
'must' convict.  

Note: Because of a recent California Supreme Court decision (People vs
Williams), jury nullification has now been somewhat nullified, at least in
California. A juror from this state can still vote for acquittal on the
basis of his belief that the law is wrong; it's just that he can't tell
anyone why. This means that he must either remain silent, or he must
revert to such fibs as 'I don't find the evidence convincing.' A juror is
of course not required to deliberate or to state the reasons for his vote,
but this will be difficult for a lot of people. Perhaps the best solution
is for the juror to say something on the order of 'My intuition tells me
this man didn't do it', 'I believe in his innocence because of a dream', or
or 'Psychic messages have convinced me that I cannot vote to convict.'
This kind of reasoning should be readily acceptable to most Californians.

Fact: In writing our nation's Constitution, perhaps the greatest concern of
America's founders was to restrict the power of the government in such a
way that it could not become tyrannical.  One of the ways they chose to do
this was to mandate that all persons accused of nontrivial crimes would be
guaranteed a jury trial.  They did this because jurors, by the well-
established legal tradition mentioned earlier, have the power to refuse to
convict a defendant under laws they consider wrong.  In the words of
President Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and
the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the Constitution), "I
consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet devised by man, by which a
government can be held to the principles of its constitution."  

Fact: A number of important laws have been effectively overturned and
prosecutions brought to an end because of jury nullification.  These
include the infamous Alien and Sedition Act, the Salem witch trials, the
Fugitive Slave Laws, and Alcohol Prohibition.   

Fact: While it is commonly said that 'ignorance of the law is no excuse',
the reality is that there are so many laws -- plus rules and regulations
and 'case law' (judges' decisions) which have the force or effect of law --
that it would take far more than a lifetime to read them all, to say
nothing of understanding them.  Indeed, there are so many laws which cover
so many subjects, that it is probably impossible to keep from violating
several of them every day.   

Fact: Laws are sometimes (and perhaps often) used to persecute political
dissidents and others whom the Establishment does not like.  This is easy
to do because of the just-noted large number of laws.  Accordingly, jurors
need to be sensitive to the real motives of government prosecutors.  

Fact: America has 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world's
prisoners.  It incarcerates more people per capita than almost any country
in the world, including totalitarian regimes.  This, then, is a good
measure of how far down the road to totalitarianism America has already
gone, and a cry for jurors to do something about it by means of jury

Fact: Approximately half of all prison inmates have been incarcerated for
the sale or use of recreational drugs.  Such laws are an excellent example
of totalitarianism, because there is nothing more private or personal than
the decision of what to put into one's own body.  (This of course is not to
say that a person should not be held responsible for what he does under the
influence of drugs: If he murders, rapes or robs someone, he should be
prosecuted for murder, rape or robbery, as appropriate, but never for drug
use.)  Furthermore, drug laws have many bad effects, including the
encouragement of pushers (legalizing drugs would eliminate the incentive to
acquire new 'customers'), the criminalization of what should be considered
at worst a medical problem, the destruction of the lives of those who are
imprisoned, the denial of the undeniable medicinal benefits of marijuana
and other forbidden drugs, and the elimination of the 'competition' for a
government which for years has itself been neck-deep in the drug trade
(Iran-Contra and Mena are only two tips of this incredibly huge iceberg;
for more details, see Alfred W McCoy's definitive 1972 book The Politics of 
Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade).  Because of all this, as
well as the fact that the government can't even keep drugs out of prisons,
jurors have some very good reasons for using their veto power against the
drug laws.  

Fact: While drug laws represent the laws most ripe for jury nullification,
there are several others of great importance.  These include property
forfeiture laws, which often result in the confiscation of property without
the owner ever being convicted of a crime; hate-crime laws, which are
actually thought-crime laws because they penalize people for having
politically-incorrect opinions; anti-discrimination laws, which usurp the
Constitutionally-guaranteed right of free association; licensure laws,
which keep people from making a living in a profession where they don't
have the 'right credentials' -- credentials which are often professionally
irrelevant, costly, and serve only to maintain a monopoly by a politically-
powerful professional elite; gun-control laws, which are an attempt to
interfere with (and ultimately do away with) our Constitutionally-
guaranteed right to keep and bear arms; double-jeopardy prosecutions, in
which individuals who have been tried and found innocent in state court are
-- contrary to the Constitution -- subjected to federal prosecution for the
same acts (or vice-versa); and tax laws, the federal version of which is
both unconstitutional and never even properly enacted.  (For details on
this latter point, see Red Beckman's book The Law that Never Was).  

Fact: Jurors are often excluded from jury duty because of their political
opinions, particularly if these opinions are regarded as unconventional and
'anti-government' (ie, favoring individual freedom and adherence to the
Constitution).  One common procedure by which this is accomplished is
called voire dire, a process which often involves an intrusive
questionnaire and/or intensive personal interrogation by the judge which is
designed to reveal political and other personal beliefs.  Besides being an
outrageous violation of privacy, it is designed to stack juries with meek
people who hold conventional opinions and who kowtow to 'authority figures'
and thus can be manipulated by the judge and prosecutor.   

Fact: A defense attorney is likely to be (unjustly) slapped with contempt-
of-court charges if he tells jurors that they have the right to judge the
law as well as the guilt of the defendant.  Likewise, someone who
represents himself in court is likely to be similarly threatened if he
attempts to describe his motives for breaking a law, or why he disagrees
with it.  And this in spite of the earlier-mentioned fact that, until about
1895, jurors were regularly instructed by judges that they had the right to
judge the law as well as the guilt of the defendant.  

Fact: The attempt to keep people ignorant of their right as jurors to
employ jury nullification is part of a much larger effort by those who rule
us to concentrate power in their own hands and undermine two of the
fundamental principles of American democracy, namely, that (1) the acts of
government should represent 'the consent of the governed'; and (2) that
governmental power should be strictly limited to powers expressly granted
to it by the Constitution.  Some describe this attempt at concentration of
power as 'conspiracy' or 'the New World Order', but whatever it is called,
it deserves the most vigorous resistance, including jury nullification.  

Fact: Jury duty, like military service under the old Selective Service
laws, is considered compulsory by the courts in spite of the fact that the
US Constitution explicitly forbids involuntary servitude.  Furthermore, the
'pay' offered jurors for this service ($15 per day in Pinellas county FL
where the author lives) is often not even up to the level of slave wages,
since not even a slave could live for a day on a juror's pay.  All this is
yet another example of the contempt which the courts and our 'leaders'
exhibit for the Constitution, and for the people who must live under their

Some Quotes on Jury Nullification   

* President John Adams (1771): 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.  

* First US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay (Georgia vs Brailsford, 
1794): The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in

* President Thomas Jefferson (letter to Thomas Paine, 1789): I consider
trial by jury as the only anchor yet devised by man, by which a government
can be held to the principles of its constitution.  


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