Image Courtesy of FinkorSwim
By Jason A. Kofoed
Today was the second time this year that I was summoned for jury duty. The first time was back in January or February and the case was settled the day before the trial was to convene, so I never even had to report. Today, we the jurors were required to report to what was likely going to end up being a civil suit of some kind, but the defendant failed to show up so we were again dismissed. However, while the sign-in sheet was being passed around to the 70 or so potential jurors, the court clerk showed us a video produced by the State of Idaho explaining our duties to serve as jurors when summoned, the history of it and how it is required by the Constitution to preserve our rights. However, that's where the "constitutionality" stopped and the rest was filled with "you-must-follow-the-instructions-of-the-judge" fluff and filler. I was paying particular attention to see if there was going to be anything said about jury nullification but, alas, there was not. I was not suprised, only disappointed and frustrated.
Jury nullification is a right reserved to the trial jury to refuse to convict a defendant who is found guilty of breaking a law if the jury feels the "spirit" of the law has not been violated or if they feel the law is unconstitutional. This is powerful, yet overlooked!
According to Fully Informed Jury Association:
Have you ever considered this before? Back in June 2011, former Idaho Gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell was actually arrested and charged with felony jury tampering in Idaho Falls, Idaho for informing prospective jurors of their right to nullification in his own upcoming court case. According to the report in the Idaho Reporter:
It’s been a tough week for Idaho politicians with two of them arrested in the last four days on felony-level charges.
Early Sunday morning it was state Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, who was arrested for grand theft and drunken driving after he stole a sport utility vehicle and trailer and shortly thereafter jackknifed them in the driveway of an unsuspecting homeowner in south Boise.
Thursday, it was former gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell who ended up in the back of a patrol car.
Rammell was taken into custody by Bonneville County sheriff’s deputies in downtown Idaho Falls Thursday and is being charged with felony jury tampering. The charges stem from an incident prior to his trial for poaching an elk in which he reportedly handed prospective jurors pamphlets explaining their rights.
In raw video released by KPVI, Rammell doesn’t deny that he handed out the pamphlets, but contends the action was not tampering. ”I was, but it’s not a felony to inform a jury of their rights,” said Rammell as officers attempted to seat him in a police cruiser.
He vowed to fight the charge, saying that prosecutors are wrong. ”That’s what they say, but we will prove that it’s not,” Rammell explained.
The former gubernatorial candidate didn’t make the arrest easy for deputies. He complained about their actions several times and said deputies were causing harm to his shoulder because they cuffed him behind his back.
Rammell also decried the arrest because he claimed to be on the way to turn himself into police. ”I don’t like the way I am being treated,” he said. ”This is unnecessary. I am a good citizen. This is not the way to treat a good citizen.”
If he is convicted on the tampering charge, he could face five years in jail and a $50,000 fine. Idaho Code 18-1304 prohibits “attempts to influence a juror, or any person summoned or drawn as a juror, or chosen as an arbitrator or umpire, or appointed a referee, in respect to his verdict in, or decision of, any cause pending, or about to be brought before him.” The law specifically bans using “any paper” to sway jurors.
The former candidate was already on trial for poaching an elk in eastern Idaho last fall. Rammell was offered a plea deal, but he was unwilling to accept a misdemeanor charge that went along with it, so he balked.
Rammell is due back in court for the poaching case on June 30.
Now, I recall this incident very clearly as it occurred in a city 15 minutes away and it was played and replayed over and over again as the media was relentless in trying to further tarnish the reputation of Mr. Rammell who had had previous run-ins with the law. So, if it's illegal for ordinary citizens to inform potential jurors of their right to jury nullification (though I completely disagree with Idaho Code 18-1304 being cited in this context) and the judges refuse to inform the jurors as a part of their "instructions and duties", then whose job is it? Well, it's YOURS and MINE before the court cases are scheduled and potential jurors summoned. We must inform our fellow citizens of this important obligation to protect ourselves in the days ahead.
What are we going to do when all the unconstitutional laws being passed at this very moment in time are fully enacted and enforced? What will we do when WE are out of compliance with the new gun laws, cybersecurity laws, Obamacare laws, tax laws, etc., etc. and it is OUR turn to be sitting as a defendant in a so-called "court of law" and our fate is in the hands of an ignorant jury who is afraid of the judge and think they have to do exactly as he instructs when our God-given rights say otherwise? Will you want jurors who understand they have the right and POWER to nullify the charges? I sure as heck will!
Again, from the FIJA website:
If you serve on a jury in a criminal trial, the judge will likely tell you that his job is to interpret the law, and to inform you about it, and that your job is only to determine whether the defendant did the thing of which (s)he was accused. Wrong.
The judge is the referee of the proceedings. His job is to maintain order, and to ensure that witnesses are sworn in, and properly questioned and cross-examined.
The job of a jury is to protect citizens from the awesome power of the state. If the state does not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, if the statute allegedly violated does not involve a real crime, if the punishment is too severe, it is your right and duty to acquit, denying the state the power to cage a human being like an animal.
Folks, don't wait until you are summoned to a jury trial and most certainly don't wait until you find yourself on trial for violating one of these outrageous and unconstitutional "laws". Educate yourselves and those around you NOW!