Most people know that in a courtroom the jury proves the defendant guilty or innocent. However, many people do not know that the jury has the right not only to judge the facts, but also to judge the law itself.
Almost every jury in the land is improperly instructed by the judge when they are told that they can decide only the facts of the case, and that they must accept as the law that which is given to them by the court. The jury’s options are by no means limited to the choices presented to it by the judge.
Let’s read what some of the great Supreme Court Justices, Chief Justices, and Presidents have said about the jurors obligations:
Samuel Chase, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
“The jury has the Right to judge both the law and the facts”.
John Adams, 2nd President of the United States
“It is not only…[the juror’s] right, but his duty… to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.”
John Jay, 1st Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
“The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
“The jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both law and fact.”
Harlan F. Stone, 12th Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
“The law itself is on trial quite as much as the cause which is to be decided.”
U.S. vs. Dougherty, 473 F 2nd 1113, 1139, (1972)
“The pages of history shine on instances of the jury’s exercise of it’s prerogative to disregard instructions of the judge…”
It is clear that our founding fathers had these duties in mind for the jury. However, many people are not informed or do not know of their duties. That is because they aren’t told of them in any courtrooms, the jurors’ handbook issued from the courthouse, or from anything else issued from the court. When it used to be standard that the judge would tell the jurors that they have the right to judge both the law and the facts, today it has evolved into the jury taking a vow to judge the facts and only the facts, whether you think it right or wrong.
A famous case was the case of William Penn. He was accused of preaching a Quaker sermon, which violated the law to having the Church of England as the only legal church. The jurors refused to render Penn guilty. That was going against the direction of the court and the judge. The judge therefore imprisoned the jury for days without food, water, tobacco, or toilet facilities; but the jury still refused to convict Penn. The court finally released them and fined them. The most defiant four of them still refused to pay the fine and were thrown in jail for another nine weeks.
Today the judge cannot fine or punish the jury for voting “not guilty” or voting according to their own conscience, even after you have taken the vow to judge the facts and only the facts. If one person renders the verdict not guilty, the jury is hung. In the case of a hung jury, the judge cannot convict the defendant at that time, however he can call for a new trial. The judge can ask the jury to explain their verdict, but the jurors do not have to explain. Once the jury has made it’s decision, it is final; and due to the double-jeopardy law in the United States Constitution, the defendant cannot be tried again for the same charges (except in the case of a hung jury). The jury cannot be punished, fined, or harassed in any way by the judge or anyone else for their verdict, as in the Penn case.