With so many rules, regulations and laws, how can one be a “Freeman”, with the ability to pursue happiness and have true liberty? This is the question of our days, but far from a new question. The overbearing big government we see now is not too much unlike that of the one our founding fathers knew, rebelled against and left tools for addressing when they founded this nation. There were several tools and many warnings they left us, but for this article, I would like to focus on one tool specifically. “Trial by jury”, which is founded in the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Amendments, but why did the founding fathers spell these out specifically? The simple answer was because of what the king had done to them. He made laws and rules without the people’s involvement or consent. The king gave the judges ultimate power and instructions to rule with a heavy yoke. Now, I would recommend digging much deeper, into the acts of the king in those days. If you’re not familiar with the history, for a quick lesson you only need to turn to the Declaration of Independence and read it. Here are just a few of many available quotes from it that are specific to the unjust governance of the king, which the founding fathers rebelled against, related to laws, authority and tyrannical governance. “He has combined, with others, to subject us to a jurisdiction, foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent, to their acts of pretended legislation.” “He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.” “For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury.” Of worthy note, two of these complaints are listed, higher in priority, than the one most people think of nowadays, that of imposing taxes without consent.
With the understanding that the king had overstepped his authority and became a tyrant to the people, how is it that trial by jury is a tool of the people to limit and return proper authority back to themselves? Simple, this the jury was meant as a means for the people to have the ultimate authority on what is a just or unjust law. In courts nowadays, the jury is charged with determining if a defendant is guilty of breaking the law, but what is not mentioned typically is that the jury can also find the defendant not guilty because it is an unjust law. This simple action, when performed enmasse, removes the power for the leviathan of big government and returns it to the people — where it belongs. This is called jury nullification and is one tool we really need utilized.
The following two paragraphs are from http://prorev.com/juries.htm, if you would like to know more details.
The nullification principle involves the power to say no to the excesses of government, and thus, serves as a final defense against tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson put it to Tom Paine in a 1789 letter, "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law, as given by a judge, and contrary to the evidence. -- 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, US v Moylan, 1969
If we are to “free” ourselves from the tentacles of big government, federal, state and local, we need to educate ourselves and utilizing the tools left us, while teaching responsibility to our prosperity. “The jury has a right to judge, both the law, as well as, the fact in controversy.” John Jay 1794, First Chief Justice of the United States.