Randy Clemens is a new mover to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project. Prior to moving here, he’d never heard of Jury Nullification. Now he’s an active part of the new outreach project happening at Strafford superior court in Dover, NH. Randy is also known as “The Sriracha Guy”. Here’s his blog on this week’s successful and first-ever jury outreach in Dover. If you want to join in the fun, please join the New Hampshire Juror Outreach group on facebook.
“It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision… you [juries] have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy.” —John Jay, first U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, State of Georgia v. Brailsford (1794)
You’re out on a leisurely walk in the city one day, simply going about your business and keeping to yourself, when… crap! People handing out informational literature. Uggghh. Don’t they have anything better to do? You’ve clearly spotted them and worse yet, they spotted you spotting them! Good luck escaping their tractor beam now!
You briefly consider reaching for your cell phone to pretend to take a call, but it’s too late. It’s clear that there’s no way to weasel out of accepting their disruptive pamphlet, so you force a polite, acknowledging smile, or construct a curious, inquisitive glance as you take the propaganda from their outstretched hand, feigning interest juuuuuussstt until you’re out of their field of view (probably), at which point you can safely discard whatever it was they were peddling without looking like a terrible, close-minded person.
Sound familiar? Or is that just the process that usually runs through my head when I see someone handing out unsolicited pamphlets? (To be fair, it is usually promotional garbage trying to get us to buy something, or telling us we’re going to some version of hell if we don’t repent for our existence, etc.) Well, even despite my less-than-savory feelings about this method of interpersonal exchange, I was actually on the other side of it for the first time this week, volunteering my time to help spread awareness of an incredible right that we as Americans possess, but simply aren’t informed of: jury nullification of law.
“Jury Nullification is the term given to the process where the jury of a criminal case acquits the defendant regardless if he has broken the law in question. The jury would do this in a case where they judge the law to be unjust, therefore the jury can vote to find the defendant innocent since the jury found the law itself to be immoral, unfair, unjustly applied, or unconstitutional.”
When fellow liberty-loving activist and Free State Project participant Joël Valenzuela posted that he was organizing an outreach event to inform potential jurors about jury nullification and their rights as jurors, I knew I wanted to get involved. Tuesday morning at 6:00am, my phone’s alarm shot out of its speaker like the Big Bang, doubling as a defibrillator to really jumpstart my day. And despite the forecast of potential rain (spolier: it definitely rained) out in Dover, New Hampshire, I made the drive out to the Strafford County Superior Court – William A. Grimes Justice & Administration Building to help spread a message of true justice along with Joël and several other volunteers he organized through his activism group: Rights Brigade. And I’m pleased to report we were met with largely open ears… except for that one “don’t know, don’t wanna know” guy. Ah, willful ignorance…
So what exactly is Jury Nullification of Law?
Jury nullification of law—or just “jury nullification” for short—is a process by which a juror not only examines the testimony and facts of the case to deliver a verdict, but also weighs whether or not the law is unjust or being unfairly applied.
When has Jury Nullification been used effectively to acquit victims of unjust laws?
Jury Nullification is a powerful tool that empowers jurors to bring into question the validity of laws that punish victimless “crimes” such as those that create Prohibition of substances that the government doesn’t like, such as raw milk, marijuana—be it recreational, medicinal, spiritual, or otherwise—and formerly, alcohol.
Other examples of “crimes” where Jury Nullification has been exercised to challenge unjust laws include those involving:
- Conscription—refusal to join the military and/or fight in a war the “violator” feels to be unjust,
- Licensure—people exercising a right to conduct private business without permission from the State. (Remember the two pastors & the 90-year-old vet that got arrested in Fort Lauderdale last year for feeding the homeless?)
- The countless other manmade laws that restrict or otherwise control what a person does in their personal life, e.g. education, traveling, gardening, eating, walking, etc.
Historically, Jury Nullification has also been used to challenge the Fugitive Slave Act, seeking to acquit those who were harboring runaway slaves.
Who is the Court working for?
It’s important to note that the judge, prosecutor, and police all work for, and receive their salary, from the same place: the State, which I’ll take this opportunity to remind you is operated with our tax money. Defense attorneys, too, must be licensed by the State for compliance, and as such, they too become officers of the court, swearing an oath to uphold the law, making them ethically prohibited from directly advocating for Jury Nullification.
Laws exist across the U.S. restricting attorneys and defendants from informing jurors of an option to nullify and judges have been known to dismiss jurors who openly discuss nullification, assuming they’ve made it past the initial juror selection process.
In a courtroom stacked with officials on the same team who may find higher allegiance to the system which provides their paycheck rather than in promoting true justice, only the conscientious juror is present to speak objectively for the defendant.
There’s a reason the Constitution placed trust in juries—not judges—to determine criminal guilt.
“It is not only [a 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.” —President John Adams
“The primary function of the independent juror is not, as many think, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by government. The Constitution guarantees you the right to trial by jury. This means that government must bring its case before a jury of The People if government wants to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property. Jurors can say no to government tyranny by refusing to convict.” —Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA)
If I am a juror, can I be punished for following my conscience and nullifying?
One word: NOPE. But I’m sure the 3,278 people serving life sentences without parole for nonviolent crimes will thank you.
What can I do to help create greater awareness of Jury Nullification?
There are certainly efforts to keep Jury Nullifation awareness limited. Even here in New Hampshire, where I recently moved to enjoy greater personal liberties as part of the Free State Project, there are government officials fighting vehemently to overturn the strides made toward fostering an open dialog about Jury Nullification. Currently, defendants are allowed to ask the judge in a case to deliver these instructions to a New Hampshire jury: “Even if you find that the State has proven each and every element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find the defendant not guilty if you have a conscientious feeling that a not guilty verdict would be a fair result in this case.” … though the New Hampshire Supreme Court recently ruled that it still does not endorse jury nullification, and the NH State House’s judiciary committee is still entertaining testimonies that support not informing jurors of their full rights. Troubling to be sure.
For more information on your rights as a juror, jury nullification, or to get involved with activism/spreading the word, check out:
- Fully Informed Jury Association – FIJA.org
- Flex Your Rights
- 8 Jury Nullification Objections Rebutted (via Flex Your Rights)
And for fellow New Hampshire residents, check out NHJury.com and RightsBrigade.com for more info. And if you’re inspired to get more involved with activism and working toward greater personal liberties, make the move to New Hampshire yourself like I did! Free State Project FTW!