So I have Jury Duty tomorrow morning. Early. I don’t know any of the details of the trial. I’ve been dreading it all week long but have gradually come to accept that there is no way out of it (or at least out of showing up the first day) so I might as well make the most of it. The problem is I don’t know what to expect. Will the lawyers cross examine me first? Or did that form I filled out a few months back suffice to make me a good juror (this is Montana after all, I’m sure we don’t have big-city standards)? I don’t think the form contained enough information about me for the prosecuting and defense teams to decide I am a good juror. So I am inclined to think that there will be additional questioning. And if so, that would be my ticket out of it because if just one team of attorneys thinks that I would make a decisive, respectable, impartial juror, the court will probably dismiss me. And I would likely never be summoned again. To be honest, I don’t think I would make a “good” juror because I don’t like authority all that much. Not cops. Not judges. Not elected officials. And I absolutely loathe lawyers with rare exception. If they ask my opinion about any of of these things should I tell them or hold back?
Should I be honest (assuming they ask me the right kinds of questions) and tell them I think their courtroom — no, their entire system — is running a racket? This would basically be the cowardly way to reclaim my rights to my own person because they can’t do anything to you for expressing an opinion. The less cowardly way would be to refuse to show up, but that could put me in a world of trouble since all commands handed down by the state are in essence backed by the barrel of a gun. Talk about judicial fiat! (Pardon the monetary lingo.)
Or should I go the Jury Nullification route and pretend I would make a good juror by telling those shysters (there’s no “c”, like “schmuck” or “schlemiel” or “schlimazel” or “Schumer”, so it’s not Yiddish, so watch the charges of anti-Semitism!) what they want to hear? This would basically be accepting that my rights have been trampled and just getting over it so I can then defend the rights of someone else (the defendant). Potentially. If the need arises. Assumes it will be a case where Jury Nullification would be useful.
If the law in question is itself more of a crime than the breaking of it or if I think the guy is innocent but all the other jurors think he is guilty, then I can hang the jury (if the voting threshold requires unanimity) by being the sole person to decide: Innocent (technically, it’s “Not Guilty”). Then the case would either be thrown out or go to retrial (and presumably they will get a new jury).
If the law is legitimate and a real crime was committed by the defendant and I am truly convinced that he did indeed do it, and all the other jurors are as well, then my one chance to practice Jury Nullification goes out the window and I might as well have not even been a juror because if it is that bad of a crime and it is that obvious that the defendant did it, then obviously whoever went in my stead, perhaps some guy who’s never even heard of Jury Nullification and wouldn’t even practice it if he had, would come to the same conclusion as I might: Guilty. Then the defendant get’s hauled off to live at the expense of the taxpayer in a comfy little room for five to ten (or fined or whatever).
The thing about Jury Nullification is you have to be quiet about it (but if I want to be loud, I’ll just print this piece, read it and weep) in order for it to work. Unless you want them to dismiss you, even mentioning it will get you not only dismissed, but perhaps chased out and summarily stricken from the nice list. So, unless I plan on raising the hairs on the heads and necks of the lawyers and judge (I think I even voted for the guy) or secretly converting some of the other jurors or, I won’t be waving my FIJA-issued handbook in anyone’s face. Why bother? One nullifier is sufficient to arrest the progress of tyranny (one case at a time), even if the other eleven act like sheep. That’s the beauty of it. And that’s what juries are for.
But the whole involuntary servitude thing, I’m still not feeling it. Wasn’t there an Amendment against that thing and haven’t these state-level goons ever heard of the Incorporation Doctrine? Not that the 13th ever stopped federal-level goons.
And that’s not even my main reservation. Rather it’s that once I commit to nullifying — if there is a bad law (like it shouldn’t be one at all or the punishment does not fit the crime) — once I commit to nullifying, before I am aware of any details of the case, what if I am pressured and I waver and then make the wrong decision, condemn a man for breaking a law that shouldn’t even be there? Or what if it’s a legitimate law, but I still get the verdict wrong and condemn an innocent person (even if it’s something pathetic like a paying small fine)? That would be far worse than what the other jurors did. They were simply fooled. They were lied to. But if I do what they did, there’s no excuse. I know better, right?
Anyways, I’ve come up with two polls for you. The first one is asking what the most libertarian thing to do is, in this situation. Please answer it whether you are a libertarian or not: Should I dodge the summons (either the approach of not showing up or the gradualist approach of showing up but convincing the lawyers and judge that you are unfit) or should I nullify bad laws? To rephrase: should I fend for myself or make a statement by defending others? There might as well be a third option. Should I keep from drawing attention to myself and just go with the flow like everybody else, regardless of the facts and regardless of the law?
The second is asking what I should do, based on what you think is right or best. Should I “weasel” my way out of it by being honest that their “justice” and their “summons” are stenches in my nostrils? Should I nullify if there is a bad law, whether he broke it or not? Should I do my civic duty (to convict every criminal!) and just base my decision on the other juror’s consensus? Or should I sleep in and hope they don’t come knock down my door with guns-ablazing?
Article 3, Section 2, Paragraph 3, United States Constitution
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
Amendment 4, United States Constitution
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment 5, United States Constitution
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment 6, United States Constitution
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Amendment 7, United States Constitution
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment 8, United States Constitution
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment 9, United States Constitution
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment 10, United States Constitution
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Amendment 13, United States Constitution
1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.