FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Prosecutors vs. Democracy

In Washington, D.C., Fully Informed Jury Association activist James Babb has placed informative billboards at Metro stations near the courts. These billboards tell passersby about jury nullification, the ancient right of jurors to judge both the facts and the law. The doctrine has a long and venerable history; the right of juries to ignore the law and render whatever verdict they believe just has its roots in the Magna Carta, which declares that “No free man shall be captured, and or imprisoned, or disseised of his freehold, and or of his liberties, or of his free customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed […] except by the lawful judgment of his peers.”
The famous colonial era Zenger case clearly demonstrates the use and purpose of jury nullification. John Peter Zenger was charged with libeling the royal governor of New York and, according to the established legal doctrines of the time, should have been readily convicted. However, Zenger’s lawyer, Andrew Hamilton (no relation to Alexander Hamilton), persuaded the jury that the charges violated the freedom of the press, then quite a novel doctrine indeed. Zenger, in defiance of the law, was acquitted.
Since the American Revolution, jury nullification has been repeatedly upheld by appellate court decisions, and indeed it cannot be undone without abolishing two of the pillars of our legal system, such as it is: First, the right of a jury to deliberate in secret and not to be punished for the verdict it renders; and secondly, the prohibition of “double jeopardy” (trying a defendant twice for the same offense). While courts and prosecutors try desperately to control information about jury nullification, even arresting old men for leafleting in front of courthouses, the doctrine itself remains in place, irritating zealous prosecutors enforcing stupid laws all over the country.
Jury nullification no doubt infuriates prosecutors, judges, and indeed all the petty tyrants of officialdom. Genuine democracy generally has this effect. Our ruling class is pleased to call the farcical, heavily gamed elections periodically held to confirm them in power “democracy,” but the power of the jury to disregard the law and do justice as they see it represents genuine democracy, that is, demokratia, or people power. Indeed jury nullification represents one of the few remaining bastions of genuine democracy in our technocratically managed society. It must be truly maddening for the legal technocrats to have their pompously ridiculous nonsense overthrown by a gaggle of mere citizens lacking, as they often do, fine degrees and prestigious titles. And so they try and try to quash information about the real point of juries — deciding upon a just verdict — in order to render them passive and easily controlled, to turn them from real, functioning juries into inanimate totems used as props for the kabuki shows that we are assured are “fair trials.”
We cannot let them win. The legal system is one of the core functions of the state, and in juries and jury nullification we anarchists are handed a wonderful monkey wrench to fling into its gears. We must, at every opportunity, let our brothers and sisters know about this power that remains in their hands, and if we ever find ourselves summoned for jury duty — especially for a case trying a non-crime, like selling weed or shooting a cop in self-defense — do everything we can to get onto that jury and to acquit the defendant. Anarchism represents the people against power, and we must fully utilize the few legal tools left to us in our war on the rulers.
Jonathan Carp is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a nurse. He lives in Tacoma, WA.
More articles by:

Jonathan Carp is a fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He works as a nurse in Tacoma, WA.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 16, 2019
Conn Hallinan
The World Needs a Water Treaty
Kenneth Surin
Britain Grovels: the Betrayal of the British Ambassador
Christopher Ketcham
This Land Was Your Land
Gary Leupp
What Right Has Britain to Seize an Iranian Tanker Off Spain?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Democratic Virtues in Electing a President
Thomas Knapp
Free Speech Just isn’t That Complicated
Binoy Kampmark
The Resigning Ambassador
Howard Lisnoff
Everybody Must Get Stoned
Nicky Reid
Nukes For Peace?
Matt Johnson
The United States of Overreaction
Cesar Chelala
Children’s Trafficking and Exploitation is a Persistent, Dreary Phenomenon
Martin Billheimer
Sylvan Shock Theater
July 15, 2019
David Altheide
The Fear Party
Roger Harris
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Bachelet’s Gift to the US: Justifying Regime Change in Venezuela
John Feffer
Pyongyang on the Potomac
Vincent Kelley
Jeffrey Epstein and the Collapse of Europe
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Hissy-Fit Over Darroch Will Blow a Chill Wind Across Britain’s Embassies in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
Juggling with the Authoritarians: Donald Trump’s Diplomatic Fake Book
Dean Baker
The June Jobs Report and the State of the Economy
Michael Hudson – Bonnie Faulkner
De-Dollarizing the American Financial Empire
Kathy Kelly
Remnants of War
B. Nimri Aziz
The Power of Our Human Voice: From Marconi to Woods Hole
Elliot Sperber
Christianity Demands a Corpse 
Weekend Edition
July 12, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Skull of Death: Mass Media, Inauthentic Opposition, and Eco-Existential Reality in a Pre-Fascist Age of Appeasement
T.J. Coles
“Strategic Extremism”: How Republicans and Establishment Democrats Use Identity Politics to Divide and Rule
Rob Urie
Toward an Eco-Socialist Revolution
Gregory Elich
How Real is the Trump Administration’s New Flexibility with North Korea?
Jason Hirthler
The Journalists Do The Shouting
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pâté Politics in the Time of Trump and Pelosi
Andrew Levine
The Electoral Circus as the End of Its Initial Phase Looms
David Swanson
Earth Over the Brink
Ron Jacobs
Presidential Papers
Robert Hunziker
The Flawed Food Dependency
Dave Lindorff
Defeating the Trump Administration’s Racist, Republican-Rescuing Census Corruption
Martha Rosenberg
Pathologizing Kids, Pharma Style
Kathleen Wallace
Too Horrible to Understand, Too Horrible to Ignore
Ralph Nader
An Unsurpassable Sterling Record of Stamina!
Paul Tritschler
Restricted View: the British Legacy of Eugenics
John Feffer
Trump’s Bluster Diplomacy
Thomas Knapp
Did Jeffrey Epstein “Belong to Intelligence?”
Nicholas Buccola
Colin Kaepernick, Ted Cruz, Frederick Douglass and the Meaning of Patriotism
P. Sainath
It’s Raining Sand in Rayalaseema
Charles Davis
Donald Trump’s Fake Isolationism
Michael Lukas
Delisting Wolves and the Impending Wolf Slaughter
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Shaking Off Capitalism for Ecological Civilization
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail