Many within the Patriot Community are greatly confused as to how exactly the jury box works. Their common perception is that juries must rubber-stamp whatever the government declares to be “illegal.” This reflects their fundamental misunderstanding of what the Law actually is; it also contradicts the historically valid power of the jury to judge not only the facts of a particular case, but also the letter of the law itself.
Tracing all the way back to the Magna Carta, juries have been “a palladium of liberty” on the British Isles for several hundred years. Originally a practice by the English barons, conducting a court trial by a “jury of your peers” was eventually applied to the peasants for the purpose of maintaining the common law. What initially began as “advisory councils” to the English king became coercively binding in terms of determining what exactly is the law of the realm.
As the author declares in his opening paragraph:
“For more than six hundred years – that is, since Magna Carta, in 1215 – there has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law, than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what was the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also their right, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such laws.”
What Spooner is literally saying here is that it is the inviolable right and proper duty of any jury to determine whether a statute, ordinance, or any other legal device of government actually serves the very purpose of the Law itself; if it does not, it is tyrannical and thus must be held as unlawful by the jury. With regards to how the jury should deal with both the facts and the law when judging a case, Spooner says:
“But, for their right to judge the law, and the justice of the law, juries would be no protection to an accused person, even as to matters of fact; for, if the government can dictate to a jury any law whatever, in a criminal case, it can certainly dictate to them the laws of evidence. That is, it can dictate what evidence is admissible, and what inadmissible, and also what force or weight is to be given to the evidence admitted. And if the government can thus dictate to a jury the laws of evidence, it can not only make it necessary for them to convict on a partial exhibition of the evidence rightfully pertaining to the case, but it can even require them to convict on any evidence whatever that it pleases to offer them.”
In other words, it is not enough (or even a precept of justice) to try a case according to the evidence, but it is in fact necessary to do so according to one’s conscience. What this means is that, as a juror, you should place a much higher value on whether the defendant’s actions were immoral, even if they were technically illegal, if natural justice is to be served.
Unfortunately, it would seem likely to be the case that there have never been proper common law juries within these United States ever since the adoption of the federal Constitution. Spooner elaborates:
“In this corrupt and lawless manner, Congress, instead of taking care to preserve the trial by jury, so far as they might, by providing for the appointment of legal juries – incomparably the most important of all our judicial tribunals, and the only ones on which the least reliance can be placed for the preservation of liberty – have given the selection of them over entirely to the control of an indefinite number of state legislatures, and thus authorized each state legislature to adapt the juries of the United States to the maintenance of any and every system of tyranny that may prevail in such state.”
He is suggesting that because voir dire is determined by state statute and is typically conducted by both the prosecuting and defense attorneys (who are legally officers of the court and not popularly elected to their positions), then Americans have, at most, only a shadow of the ancient jury trials, and not the genuine article. In 1852, Spooner goes on to chillingly, yet accurately, predict that:
“If the real trial by jury had been preserved in the courts of the United States – that is, if we have had the legal juries, and the jurors had known their rights – it is hardly probable that one tenth of the past legislation of Congress would ever have been enacted, or, at least, that, if enacted, it could have been enforced.”
Apparently, it would seem to be the case that the ineffectiveness and (quite possibly) the immorality of suffrage is not the only yardstick by which we can measure the severity of the situation we are all suffering under. I guess it should not surprise us too much that the right of trial by jury has been so downplayed by the corporate whore media as much as it has by their portrayal of it as something bothersome and stupid.
Lysander Spooner’s An Essay on the Trial by Jury is an incredibly significant work that should be read by every American political dissident, regardless of your own orientation. It not only establishes the very foundation for actual trials by jury, but it also demonstrates the viability of jury nullification. Unlike state nullification, which places all power in the hands of government agents whose incentives are antithetical to your very Liberty, jury nullification enables even one individual to halt government tyranny without having to resort to physical violence in self-defense. I think it is high time to evaluate whether it is possible to reclaim the jury box and resist tyranny by legally determining government statutes as incompatible with our several American constitutions, or simply recognize what we have lost, as Spooner did, and thus reaffirm our resolve to secure our Liberty by whatever means necessary.