Jurors Have Right to Judge the Law
Jurors Have Right to Judge the Law
By Frank Parlato
July 22, 2014
It has long been assumed that juries judge the facts and the courts judge the law.
But Georgia v. Brailsford (1794) is the precedent that explains why that is a hasty assumption. It sets a precedent that the jury can also judge, and if it wishes, veto any law.
Take a moment to understand what may be the most important freedom principle you will ever learn.
It is a fact that the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay wrote to jurors, “It is presumed that juries are the best judges of the facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of the law. But still both objects are within your power of decision…you have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge both, and to determine the law as well as the facts in controversy.”
Shadrach Minkins was an African-American fugitive slave who fled in 1850 and settled in Boston, Massachusetts. A year after that, Congress enacted the Fugitive Slave Law which allowed federal agents to capture these law breaking, escaped slaves and hand them over to their owners.
On February 15, 1851, U.S. marshals arrested Minkins, but members of the Anti-slavery Boston Vigilance Committee illegally freed him from the marshals by force and sent him to Montreal.
President Millard Fillmore received calls to help the marshals enforce the law by using federal troops. Fillmore called on the citizens of Boston to respect the law and ordered the prosecution of Minkins’ liberators, but the juries did not convict any of them.
They acquitted and hung juries.
None of the law breakers went to jail.
As Justice Jay wrote 58 years earlier, they did indeed judge the law.
Remember, it is always within your power as a juror to judge the law and this, my friends, is the freedom guarantee carefully woven into the fabric of our constitution.
This is why Thomas Jefferson said he would rather that the right to vote be taken away rather than the right of the people to sit on juries; that the government could take no one’s liberty away without the consent of the people.
He said, “Were I called upon to decide whether the people had best be omitted in the legislative (voting to elect representatives) or judiciary department (jurors), I would say it is better to leave them out of the legislative. The execution of laws is more important than the making of them.”
Jefferson regarded jury nullification as the most important check on government.
In 1789 he wrote: “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
In a nation gone mad with government authority and the rising police state, the jury vote is by far the most important vote in the American political system.
Vote to acquit anytime you serve on a jury and you believe the law is wrong, even if it hangs the jury.
That was the intent of the founders of our constitution and to veto bad laws is to be a patriot in the truest sense of the word.
An honest juror must never let a person go to jail who broke a law he thinks is unjust, when it is being unjustly applied, or when the punishment is unjustly harsh for the offense committed, no matter what the government judge tells him.
As a juror, you have the power to judge the law and a judge cannot punish a juror for his verdict, even if he is the only one who votes to acquit and hangs the jury.
That is the constitution. Understand it and stop whining about the loss of freedom.
The power of your freedom is in the hands of the people on the jury, not the government.