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We the Jury: The Impact of Jurors on Our Basic Freedoms : Great Jury Trials of History [Hardcover]

Godfrey D. Lehman
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 1, 1997 1573921440 978-1573921442 First Edition
Your worst nightmare: twelve jurors stand between you and a miscarriage of justice, and none of them have read this book. Few doubt that America's judicial system is one of the fairest, but we all agree it has problems. Sometimes it must enforce unjust laws, or administer laws in ways that seem inherently unfair. In criminal cases, each participant has his or her proper role: the government prosecutes, the lawyer for the accused defends, the judge referees, and the jury renders a decision. But few realize the extraordinary power juries have to take control of court proceedings gone wrong, to undo miscarriages of justice, and help preserve the liberties we hold so dear.

Judicial history student and veteran juror Godfrey D. Lehman has compiled 12 cases from England and the U.S. in which jurors have taken it upon themselves, as a matter of conscience, to nullify or overturn horrific laws that endangered our freedoms. This is a wake-up call and a must read for historians, lawyers, judges, and, of course, all prospective jurors.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Because most Americans doubt the decision of one of the Simpson juries, it's not hard to find folks who have lost faith in the system and support calls for "jury reform" --from smaller panels to split verdicts to restrictions on jurors' powers. Lehman, a writer and lecturer who specializes in this subject, disagrees: "When jurors receive all the evidence, when they are informed of their full powers, when they are left to themselves, when they are free of outside influences, and when there are twelve of them together--in short, when they are independent, they almost invariably prove that they are the ultimate guardians and defenders of the people's liberties." Lehman traces classic cases, from Britain and czarist Russia to the U.S., from colonial days to the twentieth century. Obstacles to independent juries, Lehman holds, include jury consultants and the voir dire process, exclusion of evidence, and judicial reluctance to acknowledge juries' nullification powers. Overwritten but useful in balancing "reform" proponents. Mary Carroll

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; First Edition edition (June 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573921440
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573921442
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,293,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn How Juries Have Protected Liberty! June 24, 1998
Lehman brings to life the drama of the wonderful history of juries doing justice and protecting liberty.
I found most interesting the details of how juries stopped the Salem Witch trials. Juries also stopped slavery in the northern states, and protected blacks in Detroit who fought back against a racist mob. Learn how a judge usurping the jury's power in the trial of Susan B. Anthony put women's rights back several decades.
Lehman entertains while you learn history as if you were in the courtroom watching.
We the Jury brings home why Thomas Jefferson said, "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review by Jim Powell October 4, 1997
By A Customer
Our system of trial by jury has taken a lot of flack because of the bizarre O.J. criminal trial and all the astronomical damage awards you read about. This thrilling book provides valuable perspective. Lehman shows that "when the jury is unshackled and fully informed, when jurors are guided by conscience and act independently of outside influences, they almost always prove to be the ultimate guardians of people's liberties. Where the jury fails it is usually because the panel is not free to act on conscience. Failures occur when evidence is withheld so that the jury is not fully informed, or where it succumbs to judicial pressure or is otherwise misguided or yields to fear or intimidation." Lehman cites great thinkers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison who considered trial by jury a cornerstone of liberty. And American individualist Lysander Spooner: "The object of this trial by the people in preference to trial by the government, is to guard against every species of oppression by the government." Lehman supports jury nullification, as Spooner put it: "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." One of Lehman's most exciting chapters shows how juries undermined slavery. He recalls John Adams' dramatic observation: "I never knew a jury by a verdict to determine a Negro to be a slave. They almost always found them free." Lehman shows how, for centuries, governments have tried and often managed to manipulate juries by stacking them with pro-government members, blocking their access to evidence, limiting their mandate to judge only the facts of a case and threatening them with punishment if they didn't render a pro-government verdict. Wonderful stuff in this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brief history of jury nullification. October 2, 1997
By A Customer
Judicial history student Lehman has compiled twelve cases from England and the U.S. in which jurors have taken it upon themselves, as a matter of conscience, to nullify or overturn horrific laws that endangered our freedoms. The book shows how the concept of jury nullification has been used to protect freedom of assembly, further voting rights, etc. A good case study history of juty nullification.
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