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The Jury system, still(more) flawed after all these years
on February 27, 2004
This book, which was written in the 19th century, is as vital and significant today as the Constitution-and perhaps more important to the modern reader because of changes mad within the court system (but not the legal system) in the past century.
This is a very short book, but covers a very important and neglected part of the limitations of Government power: the trial by jury.
Jury trial rights predate the foundation of the United States, beginning with the signing of the Magna Carta in England in 1215. So the principles of jury trial were long established in the British Common Law upon which US Federal Law and most states (all but Louisiana, which is based upon Napoleonic Law.)
"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 of 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."
The purpose of a selected jury is to represent the population or country as a whole to judge the defendant, who represents the rights of the people. (i.e. the people as a whole, represented by the jurors, decide whether or not they desire the freedom to perform whatever actions are on trial.)
The purpose of trial by jury, is to permit a "trial by country," opposed to a "trial by Government." Thus, in the final analysis, it is up to the people to determine which laws have been set by their Government they truly wish to obey, and not the Government'swill alone.
This is not the model, which they taught you in school, and it is at variance with the statements frequently made in court by judges. (Whose purpose in a jury trial is not to judge, but to provide order safety and advice.)
With an informed jury, no law may be enforced which the jury finds reprehensible, regardless of the opinions of the judges, legislators or police. Juries have the final say in whether or not a law is just and enforceable.
Truly, if this were otherwise, Tyranny is the result. If the Government declares the law, and the Government determines whether or not the law is valid, then the Peoiple have lost their freedom, and have only those freedoms left which the Government chooses to leave to them.
The legal mechanism is thus: The Legislature creates the law, the Executive puts the law into effect, and enforces the law, the Courts (in the form of the Jury, a randomly selected subset of the People,) determine if the law is valid. In our last hundred years, increasingly the function of the Courts, represented by the Jury, has come to be represented by the Judges, who are, of course, not a random selection of the People, but a selected part of the Government.
Our current Government has gone so far as to say that it will continue to hold (at least some) defendants, even if they are found innocent!
I highly recommend that all people subject to jury duty (adult citizens) read this book. Despite being written well over 100 years ago, it is quite clearly written, and being short and important to your liberty, will pay great dividends for the little time invested in reading. If you read one book this year, let this be the one.