Not long ago, I discussed here at Freedom Outpost the notion of secession as a tactical response to tyrannical government. In the same vein, today I want to briefly mention another tactic vs. tyranny that still remains available to American citizens, and to those in other countries that practice trial by jury. That tactic is Jury Nullification.
Jury nullification occurs when a trial jury returns a verdict of “not guilty” even though the jury believes the defendant did, in fact, technically break the law with which he is charged.
Nullification can occur for upright, moral reasons and for immoral reasons.
On the immoral side, think of (for instance) race-related crimes in which the defendant’s peers on the jury are members of the same race as he is, and may refuse to convict him of his obviously racially motivated crime.
But on the other hand, jury nullification can be a tool in the hands of an informed citizenry, whereby they may effectively remove the teeth from laws they think are overbearing and/or immoral all on their own. A law that cannot be enforced is no law at all, and so if a jury rises up in a righteous indignation over dictatorial laws, by refusing to convict those who “break” them, those laws are made into geldings.
This is not a new concept. In fact, in the United States, the court system itself used to promote this idea. Our first chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, apparently made the option of nullification a part of his instruction to jurors. [source]
Over time, though, corresponding to the government’s never-ceasing quest for power, we’ve gotten to the point where, if anything, judges will warn juries that all they are to do is judge the facts of the case and whether the law in question was broken. They are not at all given the option of judging that law.
In fact, the last time I was summoned for potential jury duty, there were two federal cases for which they were picking juries. One was a marijuana case and another was a firearms possession case. During the screening process, the judge specifically demanded that potential jurors speak up if they were members of the NRA, or if they believed pot should be de-criminalized. Those who answered either question in the affirmative were immediately dismissed and sent home. This amounts to nothing more than an aggressive attempt to head off jury nullification.
However, the truth is that once that jury door shuts and they begin to try to come to a verdict, both the facts of the case and the law lie within the jury’s power to judge, simply because the deliberations are private. They won’t tell us that anymore. In fact, like I said, they’ll try to scare us off from it. But they can’t really stop it. Especially, they can’t stop it if juries approach their duties already mindful of this power. Even a single juror who is aware of this inherent power of the jury can at least cause a mistrial by hung jury, and a lot of those sorts of cases never get re-tried.
This is one weapon against tyranny that demands just a little bit of education: Spread this information far and wide.
Jury Nullification also, by the way, seems to have something like a Biblical precedent as well. The tyrant, king Saul, at one point, in a fit of emotion, made up a ridiculously stupid law and attached the death penalty to it. Unaware of this colossal foolishness, Saul’s son, Jonathan, innocently violated that law. When Saul heard of it, he combined outrageous pride with his moronic pronouncement and condemned his son to death. At this point, Saul’s people collectively rose up and said “No. This idiocy is not happening. You are wrong.” (My paraphrase.) Though he was a king, with all the power that entails, Saul was forced to back down on that one. The people successfully judged both the law and his enforcement of it to be unjust. (See the scriptural account here.)
For more tactics against tyranny, that can and should be employed by Christian patriots especially, see the ebook, Resistance to Tyrants: Romans 13 and the Christian Duty to Oppose Wicked Rulers. If you are like most American Christians, you have probably been taught to yield something like unqualified obedience to even the most antichrist government, on the basis of a poor and thoughtless reading of Romans 13:1-7. According to this bad reading, God expects you to obey the devil, just as long as he’s working through the government. That is not at all what the text in question means. This book will give you to the tools to combat that foolishness.