Friday, July 31, 2009

Jury Tampering

You're (Probably) a Federal Criminal

This article was featured on David Codrea's excellent "War on Guns" blog recently. While David had his normal excellent and witty thoughts on this piece, and I hope if you haven't you'll go take a look, something else in the article caught my eye.

According to the government, when Krister was in jail in Alaska due to the first unjust charges, he had "abandoned" his fuel-cell materials in Idaho. Unfortunately for Krister, federal lawmakers had included in the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act a provision making it a crime to abandon "hazardous waste." According to the trial judge, the law didn't require prosecutors to prove that Krister had intended to abandon the materials (he hadn't) or that they were waste at all -- in reality, they were quite valuable and properly stored away for future use.

With such a broad law, the second jury didn't have much of a choice, and it convicted him. He spent almost two years locked up with real criminals in a federal prison. After he testifies today, he will have to return to his halfway house in Idaho and serve another week before he is released.

The second jury didn't have much of a choice? Really?!? Folks, there's this little thing called "Jury Nullification". The entire point of being judged by a jury of your peers is not so some Judge, or hell the U.S. Government can railroad you into prison! The point of a trial by jury is so that your peers can sit in judgment of the law!!

If you've ever sat on a jury, you may have heard the Judge ask if you'll follow their instructions to the letter. They might have said that you must decide the case based only upon the evidence given and the law it stands on. This is entirely incorrect.

The jury has the power in our system to declare that in the particular situation they sit in judgment of, the law does not apply. They can decide this based on extenuating circumstances, or even because they DISAGREE with the law itself.

That second jury had the opportunity to tell the Government that when that poor man was initially arrested and railroaded into prison, he had NO CHOICE as to the disposition of the materials he uses in his research and business. This situation would be similar to a Police Officer handcuffing me to a pole in a mall, ordering me to leave the premises, and then arresting me for trespassing because I didn't leave.

Of course not every trial and every situation needs this treatment by the jury. There are obviously any number of crimes out there for which the perpetrator, if guilty, needs a good long stay in the pokey. However, before you get your next jury duty notice, please go to the Fully Informed Jury Association's web site and get familiar with the material there.

Know your rights as a jury member. Don't let some poor sap who has fallen afoul of any number of the thousands of unjust laws floating around out there go to prison simply because of circumstances beyond their control!

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