A friend posted this in FB and (with permission of course) I am posting it here for the interested reader.
This is a short note he wrote describing an experience in Jury Selection that I found more than intriguing. It is taking the high ground in a scenario where it’s unheard of…in the court room. There is a huge assumption that in relying in the law, that the jury is just a formality. As the Jurors are selected based on a set of predisposition characteristics either appealing or unappealing to the court and/or the legal representation of parties involved. That said…I was appalled at the stance the lawyer took, although not surprised. I’d never heard of FIJA before or that an organization had put forth the effort to retain some modicum or baseline rationality with regard to the guilt or innocence of a defendant. Like I said…I was a little jazzed up when reading about this.
Said friend is John Jay Myers, he’s a stout Libertarian and holds some incredibly well-informed views.
Here’s his post:
Today I had Jury duty where myself and 60 other candidates were told to fill out a long questionnaire and asked quite a few questions during a 2 hour interview process. During the Q & A we were told that we were not to determine right or wrong just that the guilt or innocence in regards to the law.
Their first question to me was “On your form you wrote that you were a member of FIJA?”, “Yes the Fully Informed Jury Association.”
“What is that?” they asked “FIJA is a group that believes that the jury not just judge whether someone broke a law, but whether you believe breaking that law is really a crime.”
I said “Take for instance marijuana, if someone is arrested on a marijuana charge and I don’t feel like marijuana should be illegal, I am going to judge not only whether the act was committed, but whether I feel it is a crime. The same goes for owning automatic weapons, or similar unconstitutional things.”
The attorney said “You realize that what you are doing would be wrong, and not in accordance with the judges orders”, I said “you should realize the way you are doing it is wrong in my opinion” and went on to say “We have judges and prosecutors who are all elected in partisan races, they may also seek to act in a partisan manner, the jury is the last avenue we have to try defeat unjust laws, or activist judges, it is how our founders intended it to be.”
Someone said outside the court “But in this instance it is a crime of an adult having sex with a minor”, I said “Sometimes that can be equally ridiculous, the law can say that an 18 year old can not have consensual sex with a 17 year old female, that is ridiculous in itself, but as we have seen, when a judge sentences that person to years in prison, we have achieved a whole new level of tyranny” and finished “All I am saying is that I cannot be asked in advance whether I will automatically comply with the judges authority, I will have to hear all the facts, and see how I feel about the crime, and the people who committed it.”
On my way back in, the Bailiff whispered to me “I suppose you have heard of Oath Keepers” I said “Yes I have” and he said “Well I am a member” and he gave me an approving look. I tapped him on the shoulder and thanked him.
During the breaks I had many other people come up to me and tell me they supported what I said and what I was doing, they didn’t think I would make it on the Jury though.
The last person said to me in the elevator “You know, in a perfect world it would work just as you described.”
I said “Wouldn’t it!”
Obviously I did not make it on the Jury.
So I immediately had all these questions. What is FIJA and how do I sign on? Who are the Oath Keepers? What do they do? Not under the premise of getting out of Jury Duty, quite the opposite 😉
FIJA, located at http://fija.org is an organization bent on informing the public of their rights as jurors in the US courts. This isn’t any kind of extremist silliness, this is incredibly good information easy accessed that provides a TON of insight into the role of a Juror and the responsibilities that role owes to us as a people and to our Constitution. The information is easily accessible and the details aren’t hard to navigate. The perspective isn’t unique, it’s simply cleaner and far more rational than I thought.
The Oath Keepers are public servants, specifically law enforcement, firefighters, and military personnel, their spouses, and and other supporters that simply reiterate their oath to the constitution in a manner that clearly draws a line when interacting with U.S. citizens in certain matters that clearly ignore their constitutional rights. Their webpage is located at http://oathkeepers.org and while I am a bit critical of the site’s aesthetics, the base idea id simple. These are people serving the people by making it clear they have no intention of willfully breaching peoples’ constitutional rights. While I am not a public servant in the capacity they are recruiting membership from, I certainly share the sentiment. There are a couple very decent videos in there too.
Now here’s my beef. These organizations are doing nothing more than employing some common sense (with a dash of conviction). If I was in a similar situation, that attorney would likely get a sharp-tongued response noting specifically that he was NOT a representative of the court nor a representative of the Judge and his candor was fallacious and threatening. Some Judges might be inclined to
spank that asshat dress that attorney down for doing so. Why on earth aren’t more people on board with this philosophy of ardent informative activism? Is it just laziness?
Anyhow that’s all I have for the night.
If you’re interested in more of John Jay’s words, you can find him at http://johnjaymyers.com