“If a juror feels that the statute involved in any criminal offense is unfair, or that it infringes upon the defendant’s natural God-given unalienable or Constitutional rights, then it is his duty to affirm that the offending statute is really no law at all and that the violation of it is no crime at all, for no one is bound to obey an unjust law.
“That juror must vote Not Guilty regardless of the pressures or abuses that may be heaped on him by any or all members of the jury with whom he may in good conscience disagree. He is voting on the justice of the law according to his own conscience and convictions and not someone else’s. The law itself is on trial quite as much as the case which is to be decided.”
U.S. Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone, 1941-1946.
The Jury’s Secret Power
JUDGES MAY NOT TELL YOU THIS, but when you sit on a jury, you have the right to vote according to your
conscience and to judge the law being applied to the case. As a juror, you are the final safeguard for justice.
It’s the judge’s obligation to give the jury the wording of the law being applied to the case. If the judge fails to
provide the wording of the law or you think the law he gives you is a bad or unconstitutional law or a good law
being improperly applied, or there are other factors that would make you regret a vote to convict someone, then
it is your right and duty as a juror to vote “Not Guilty” even if you are the only juror who does and you therefore
“hang” the jury. You cannot be punished for the way you vote.
Our lawmakers sometimes pass bad laws, and, at times, good laws have been misused. Throughout history
reasoning jurors have refused to convict fellow citizens who were accused of breaking the law: They freed tax
protesters during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, refused to convict those who aided runaway slaves in violation
of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, freed bootleggers charged during Prohibition 1920-30, and released Vietnam
War objectors 1960-70.
When our country was young, all jurors were told of their right to judge the law, as well as the facts of the case.
Then judges decided that juries should no longer be told of their power to act as a safeguard against bad laws or
unethical lawmakers. Now, all jurors are instructed to accept the law as it is given to them by the judge, even in
cases where the law is clearly unjust.
But now you know the secret: If you are selected as a juror, you have the right and duty to do the right thing:
to follow your conscience and to judge the law as well as the facts of the case. It is the only way to keep
government in the hands of the people.
“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.” –Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Paine, 1789.
For more information, please contact the Fully Informed Jury Association:
Call 1-800-835-5879 for a free jury packet.