One of the last (and very best) true investigative journalists is William Norman Grigg. I have admired his work for years. A report he recently wrote was covered by one of the very best
(if not THE BEST) newspapers in the country, The Eau Claire (Wisconsin) Journal. Grigg writes, “When New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed HB 146 into law on June 18, the Granite Statebecame the first in the nation to enact a measure
explicitly recognizing and protecting the indispensable right of jury nullification.
“New Hampshire’s jury nullification law reads, in relevant part: ‘In all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defense to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy.’
“There is nothing novel about the principle and practice of jury nullification, which dictates that citizen juries have the right and authority to rule both on the facts of a case, and the validity of a given law. This is widely recognized in judicial precedents in both American history and in Anglo-Saxon common law dating back to the Magna Carta (or earlier). At the time of the American founding it was well and widely understood that the power of citizen juries–both grand and petit–was plenary, and that their chief function was to force the government to prove its case against a defendant–and the validity of the law in question.”
Grigg also writes, “The fact that the right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers, which is supposedly sacrosanct, has become all but extinct illustrates the extent to which the U.S. ‘justice’ system has become Sovietized.”
See Grigg’s report in the Eau Claire Journal (you must subscribe).
When one wants to discuss the particular pillars protecting liberty, jury nullification must be ranked near the top of the list. Trial by jury should be regarded as one of America’s most precious and sacred rights. Rightly did America’s founders enshrine the right of trial by jury in Article VII of the Bill of Rights. I encourage readers to read all of Will Grigg‘s report mentioned above, as he very astutely describes the manner in which today’s judges and prosecutors have virtually expunged the true meaning of–and have taken the teeth out of–a jury trial.
Yet, the right of a citizen jury to sit in judgment–not only of the one accused of a crime, but also of the law that accused him–is supremely important to the survival of a free republic. And as Grigg properly notes, this doctrine of law and jurisprudence was commonly understood by America’s founders–and by many subsequent generations.
First of all, the right to a trial by one’s “peers” is, all by itself, a sacred doctrine with almost no meaning to modern jurists. One of America’s most influential attorneys at the time of America’s founding was none other than Patrick Henry of Virginia. He said this about the right to a trial by one’s peers: “By the bill of rights of England, a subject has a right to a trial by his peers. What is meant by his peers? Those who reside near him, his neighbors, and who are well acquainted with his character and situation in life.” (Elliot, The Debates in The Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution)
Secondly, the rights and power of a citizen jury is also mostly lost in modern courts. Such was not the case in Colonial America. John Jay, America’s first US Supreme Court Chief Justice said, “The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.” Samuel Chase, signer of the Declaration of Independence and………….
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