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Trial by Jury

“The trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State, where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.”    -- Constitution for the United States of America, Article III, Section 2, Paragraph [3]  


“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make ye free.”   


Justice and/or Liberty are in their essence totally dependent upon knowing the truth.  One cannot be free, if the truth is denied (for any reason).  Neither can one make rationale choices, if one doesn’t know all of the options.   

For many people, freedom is having the walls of their prison cell further away than they’d ever care to travel.  But if one eventually goes beyond their prison walls, then it is quite possible that whatever is beyond those walls is sufficiently desirable that the person in even a very large prison cell would now want to travel further than they’ve ever gone before!  Knowing what’s beyond is as important as how far away the walls are.           

Critical to knowing the truth is the right to search for the truth!  The pursuit of happiness is part and parcel of what freedom and liberty are all about!  And curiously, the add-on to the quote about the truth making ye free, is “and when you first learn the truth, you’re probably going to be really angry!”  This is because so many have been denied the truth for so long, for such unworthy reasons.  [Don’t forget also:  Get Ye Over It.]           

Finally, in searching for the truth and thereafter knowing it, the next step is making choices based upon the revealed truth. All choices are discernments (and/or judgments) -- a matter of Discrimination -- and are thus based on our search for and ultimate knowledge of the truth.  

Trial by Jury, almost hidden away in the Constitution of the United State is one of the most precious freedoms that Americans possess.  It is an outgrowth derived from the Magna Carta (which limited a King’s absolute power), and popularly in the more dramatic events of William Penn’s trial in 1670.   

The trial of William Penn (and his co-defendant, William Mead) is erroneously thought of as being only about religious freedom.  While it does set a precedence for religious freedom (and thus is highly valuable in that regard), this is only a small portion of the grand impact.  Much more importantly, the trial was the establishment of the jury as a fundamental force in the preservation of liberty.  

In 1670 juries were routinely shanghaied into service and thereafter expected to parrot the Court’s wishes.  Failure to do so resulted in heavy fines and imprisonment of the jurors!  The saving grace of William Penn’s trial was to establish a critical precedence, whereby jurors could act on the basis of their conscience.  It is a precedence which in modern day is sorely needed, when public opinion, law enforcement agencies, and the Courts themselves heavily influence the deliberations of juries to the point of denying justice.  [This has been particularly true in cases where there is a great deal of publicity, there is a serious Scapegoatology atmosphere running about, and where law-enforcement agencies, courts, and governments are seeking new ways to extend their power.]  

      “It is not only his 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 Adams  

John Adams words are fundamentally important in that every member of every jury must know they have an inalienable right to IGNORE Court-directed verdicts, public opinion, and/or the letter of the law (however interpreted by law enforcement agencies), as well as to be allowed to search for the truth in their deliberations.  No judge should dissuade or deny a juror’s right to obtain the truth in whatever way the juror determines.  

This search for the truth and the decisions reached thereby must include:  

            1) The jury having full access to what any member of the jury considers relevant to the case (i.e. not being denied access by the Court, media, or any other source);  

            2) The jury being given the respect of being able to discern for themselves between rumor, conjecture, fact, and legitimate evidence, and  

            3) The jury taking on the responsibility for and being allowed to ask questions, doing independent research, and whatever else the jury decides to do (in it’s infinite wisdom) in order to discover, to the best of its ability, the underlying truth of any court case.  The jury should not be limited by only what the Court “allows” into evidence or what the Court “decides” the jury should hear.   

Every jury must stand up for their rights on the basis of Common Law (and/or the Constitution, Magna Carta, and other documents of liberty), as was the case in William Penn’s trial.  They must actively pursue learning the truth, and then they must use their discernment to make their ultimate choice(s).  


Because of the fundamental importance of the William Penn trial, where the real heroes were Edward Bushnell and his fellow jurors, the screenplay, We the Jury, is provided on this website. The premise of the screenplay is a juxtaposition of several fundamentally important trials, one of which is the “religious freedom” trial of William Penn and William Mead in 1670 London.  Historically, this portion of the story is reasonably accurate.   

This early trial is a basic lynchpin in the laws governing liberty in that the trial established the right of a jury to defy a directed verdict from the court, ignore the letter of the law, and instead, deliver a verdict based wholly upon justice and individual liberty.  The London trial is juxtaposed with a modern day trial of two equally innocent individuals, where the pressure on jurors derives from public opinion and law enforcement agencies, in addition to the Court.  In an atmosphere of public outrage at the deaths of innocent people, a modern day jury is faced with another “directed verdict”.  


The key element in the William Penn trial was the issue of “Jury Nullification”, the right of a jury to acquit both in the face of the evidence and the law.   

This was particularly relevant in the Quaker trial, and indicated on the part of the jurors an interest in Justice, as opposed to Law and Order.  Fundamentally important is the fact that justice must override any blind adherence to the law, and furthermore, must outweigh any claims of “public safety”, “public welfare”, “national security”, or any other highly questionable allegations of what is best for the majority.  

Every juror who sits on a jury has in fact three primary considerations of any alleged crime that is claimed by a prosecution, a Court, or any other source.  

                        1.  Is the law alleged to have been broken just?  Is it a good law?  

                        2.  Is the application of the law in this particular case, just?   

                        3.  Are the defendant(s) guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt?  

If the answer to either of the first two questions is “No.”, then the finding must be “Not Guilty”.  For example, in a case where someone is charged with, e.g., smoking marijuana, the first question is:  “Is the law just?”  If a juror does not agree with the laws which prohibit use of marijuana, then that juror’s only verdict is, “Not Guilty”.  If on the other hand, the juror does not think marijuana should be allowed, except in medicinal uses, and the case at hand is about marijuana used for medical purposes, then the verdict is again “Not Guilty”.  But if the juror is totally opposed to any use of marijuana, and in fact agrees wholly with the law, then the question is solely whether or not the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of breaking the law.  The critical necessity is to question first, the justice of the law, second, the appropriateness of applying the law in the case in question, and thirdly, the guilt or innocence of the defendant(s).  

Several years ago, CBS’ Sixty Minutes gave a report about a three-time loser who got 25 years to life -- for his third crime of stealing a bicycle from someone’s garage.  The problem was that the jury in the case assumed it had to uphold the California law, popularly known as “Three strikes and you’re out.”  The jury mistakenly believed their decision was circumscribed by the law.  They were wrong, but due in large part to the fact that the judge mis-instructed the jury in regards to the jury’s rights and responsibilities -- a fact which was inevitable considering the State of affairs in California!  

For example, consider the current State of California’s “charge to the jury in criminal cases”: “It becomes my duty as judge to instruct you concerning the law applicable to this case, and it is your duty as jurors to follow the law as I state it to you... You are to be governed solely by the evidence introduced in this trial and the law as stated to you by me.”  Note the phrase, “you are to be governed...”   

The reality is that the U. S. Constitution provides that, “If a juror accepts as the law that which the judge states then that juror has accepted the exercise of absolute authority of a government employee and has surrendered a power and right that once was the citizen’s safeguard of liberty.”  [2 Elliots Debates, 94, Bancroft, History of the Constitution, 267, 1788]  California’s jury charge is, therefore, blatantly unconstitutional.

Crime in the U.S. costs about $500 billion each year.  The U.S. incarcerates SEVEN times the Western European average [1].  And there’s the distinct possibility that prisons are better at training inmates to be better criminals than in rehabilitating them [2]!  The reality is that the current criminal justice system is... well... criminal!  

But notice the fundamentally important point:

Jury Nullification has the effect on nullifying any bad laws, laws passed illegally, unnecessary laws, laws inappropriately applied, or laws which are unjust for any reason.  Jury Nullification is about seeking justice, not adhering to the letter of the law.

       “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”    -- Thomas Jefferson  

Jefferson’s viewpoint is that jury trials can serve to nullify the laws a government attempts to impose upon the citizenry, and specifically, those laws which violate the principles of the constitution from which the government derives its authority.   

Lysander Spooner has written that “in criminal cases, it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what was the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also their right, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge of the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of laws.” [3]  

If there is anything this country could use, it’s the nullification of many, many laws!  

For a Republic to exist within the meaning of the Constitution for the United States, it is fundamentally important to remember that: “If a juror accepts as the law that which the judge states, then that juror has accepted the exercise of absolute authority of a government employee and has surrendered a power and right that once was the citizen’s safeguard of liberty.”   

Now... Who’s really eager for jury duty?  


Victimless Crimes         Nature of Law         Justice         Justice, Order, and Law

Forward to:

We the Jury         Arbitration



[1]  John Hagelin, “Manual for a Perfect Government,” Maharishi University of Management Press, 1998, page 131.

[2]  J. Petersila, “Crime and punishment in California: Full cells, empty pockets, and questionable benefits,” CPS Brief (Berkeley, CA: California Policy Seminars, 1993, 9.

[3]  Lysander Spooner, Trial by Jury, [unknown].  



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