Guerrilla Jurors: Sticking it to Leviathan
by Don Doig and Stewart Rhodes
Citizens in our (once) free republic founded under the English common law system, have both the power and the right to vote according to conscience when they sit on a jury and can vote not guilty even in the face of the law and in the face of the evidence. The defendant also has a right to expect that his jury will be fully informed of their rightful power to vote “not guilty” if they believe justice requires it, regardless of the evidence. Anything less is not a real jury trial.
The jury issues no opinion, gives no explanation of its decision. It simply renders its verdict, and if the verdict is “not guilty,” that acquittal cannot be questioned or overturned by any court. It is telling that a conviction can be overturned, but an acquittal cannot – the deck is stacked on the side of the liberty of the individual on trial. While a judge can overturn a jury conviction that in his judgment is unsupported by the evidence, or where the jury harbors prejudicial animus toward the defendant, the judge cannot overturn an acquittal even if the evidence is overwhelming – even if the defendant admits on the stand that he did the actions of which he is accused.
A landmark case in jury history is that of William Penn, the Quaker preacher who would later found Pennsylvania. He was put on trial in England for the “crime” of preaching a non-government approved religion on a public street corner. He did not deny that he had preached as a Quaker. He proudly proclaimed it. There was no doubt that English law at the time considered his actions criminal. That too was plain. And yet, the jury acquitted him in spite of the obvious, undisputed facts, and in the face of the clear law. That jury was initially held in contempt and jailed by the trial judge, but on appeal, the English appellate courts ruled that the jury has an absolute power to acquit despite the facts and in the face of the law, and that it cannot be punished for exercising its power. That acquittal helped to establish the free practice of religion.