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It would appear that a judge in Orlando, Florida, Belvin Perry, Jr. , likes his juries not to know that they have the option to nullify the law. He has put out an administrative order "GOVERNING EXPRESSIVE CONDUCT TOWARD SUMMONED JURORS". The order may be read in its entirety here.

Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) activists have been tireless in their efforts to educate Florida juries of their power to nullify the law if they disagree with it or its application. Otherwise juries would be reduced to mere rubber stamps with the government able to convict anyone of anything they choose to make illegal. This is an established principle of law.

The judge is claiming that FIJA activists are trying "to influence summoned jurors as they enter the courthouse" by handing them brochures. (Actually, the brochures are handed out to all who enter or leave the courthouse.) The brochures don’t tell jurors how to vote on specific cases they merely inform them of one of their options. Sadly, the judge’s view is that "Such occurrences severely impact the court’s ability to conduct the efficient, prompt, and proper administration of justice...". Therefore, stopping the FIJA activists’ exercise of free speech " necessary to serve the State’s compelling interest in protecting the integrity of the jury system...". With this Orwellian statement judge Perry has given himself away. What could possibly be more conducive to "...protecting the integrity of the jury system..." than informing juries of one of their powers? Does the judge not want to see the jury system working as it should, as a check on tyrannical government? It would seem not, otherwise he would welcome the FIJA activists educational efforts at his court. Obviously, the judge likes his juries obedient and easily manipulated.

The national leadership is calling on all Florida FIJA activists to stop their outreach efforts until this repressive administrative order is set aside. (The full FIJA response to this outrage can be read here.) This is a sad time for liberty and one that activists of all political persuasions must take note of. There are many demonstrations at courthouses across the USA, especially anti war ones. If they can shut down the FIJA activists they can shut down all activists. We all need to stand together to restore free speech at the Florida courthouses before it is too late.

Originally posted to The International Libertarian on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 11:45 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've never heard a good explanation (4+ / 0-)

    of jury nullication. It seems to me it has the potential to be abused. Say a white jury "nullifying" a murder charge for a white defendent accused of rape/murder/etc.

    This was never my sig line

    by ontheleftcoast on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 11:51:44 AM PST

  •  There is no such right. (9+ / 0-)

    I don't agree with attempts to gag you guys, but you're absolutely wrong in your stance. Juries are required to follow the law, and judges can set aside verdicts that don't do so. Your so-called right is more akin to the lynch mob than to justice.

    "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" - Samuel Johnson

    by davewill on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 11:53:33 AM PST

    •  I think you are wrong. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens, Mostel26

      I think juries are well within their right to nullify.  Not sure about telling them about it is appropriate though.

      One should no more deplore homosexuality than left-handedness. ~Towards a Quaker View of Sex, 1964 (Proud left-handed queer here!)

      by AUBoy2007 on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 12:02:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You won't find it in the law... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elmo, erush1345

        and a lot of energy was spent to make this a nation of laws. Is there ever an excuse for lawbreaking? I can conceive of such circumstances, but those sorts of situations don't make the law-breaking legal, just understandable.

        "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" - Samuel Johnson

        by davewill on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 12:07:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm comfortable with the fact that (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Demi Moaned, Mostel26

          this right is not spelled out in the law.  Obviously the law is not going to state that people who disagree can nulify it.

          The jury sits in judgment of its fellow citizens.  I do think they have the power to say that even if person A technically committed a crime, it would not be justice to find him guilty of the crime.

          One should no more deplore homosexuality than left-handedness. ~Towards a Quaker View of Sex, 1964 (Proud left-handed queer here!)

          by AUBoy2007 on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 12:20:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Have you ever been called (0+ / 0-)

            for jury duty? I have, and after listening to some of the things my fellow jury members think, I really don't want a group of people like that deciding whether they feel like following the law or not.

            •  Then you don't believe in democracy (0+ / 0-)

              If you don't think your fellow citizens should have a say in our legal system, then you don't really believe in democracy and certainly not the 6th amendment.  That's valid.  Good arguments can certainly be made against people participating in their government.  I think it was Madison who said he wanted to go in the direction of democracy, but not too far.

              But if we believe in the principles of people shaping their own government, then they need to have a role in the execution of laws as well as the making of them.  In fact, Jefferson said the role of the citizen in the execution of laws was more important than the making of them.  In a government of the people, if citizens are not willing to hold their fellow citizens accountable to a certain law, then why do we have that law?

          •  It's not spelled out in the law ... (0+ / 0-)

            for the simple reason that jurors swear oaths to follow the law, not ignore it.  I have no idea what the penalties are for violating the oath, but I'm sure they must exist.  It is the legislature's job to determine what constitutes proper law, not jurors'.  Those who disagree with a law should run for office, not tamper with juries.

            •  Look it up (0+ / 0-)

              There have never been penalties for jurors not ruling according to the law.  In US vs. Moylan and US vs. Dougherty, the Supreme Court ruled that there were rare but appropriate cases of juries nullifying the law.  Police use discretion on when to enforce the law; prosecutors use discretion on when to charge someone, and judges use discretion on whether or not to dismiss those charges.  All are sworn to uphold the law but are well within their rights to use discretion.

    •  The Judge cannot set aside a Not Guilty Verdict (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice, Mostel26
       Jury Nullification does not extendt to finding the Innocent to be Guilty but then that actually happens all the time.
    •  There is a right, but jurors are never informed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of it while on a jury.  You either know it or you don't.

      I am the fellow citizen of every being that thinks; my country is Truth. ~Alphonse de Lamartine, "Marseillaise of Peace," 1841

      by notdarkyet on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 01:43:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Please cite... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...the statues that require juries to follow the law.

      Your lynch mob analogy is way off since nuliification is about finding people not guilty even if they break the law.

  •  The judge is correct. The actvists are wrong. (8+ / 0-)

    While jury nullification exists, it's within the rights of judges to insist that it be spontaneous rather than encouraged.  It's disingenuous to say that leafletting everyone who goes into a courthouse is generic civic education rather than a specific attempt to influence jurors.  

    APSCU is the trade group of diploma mills that rip off students and the government.

    by Rich in PA on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 11:56:16 AM PST

    •  My position is a funny contrasts to davewill's! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Demi Moaned, davewill

      He notes above (below?) that he disagrees with gagging nullification advocates but he doesn't think nullification is a right.  I think it's a right but I agree with gagging its advocates in proximity to a courthouse.

      APSCU is the trade group of diploma mills that rip off students and the government.

      by Rich in PA on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 11:58:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sounds a little like catch-22, you can do it if (0+ / 0-)

      the urge strikes the jury, but you're not allowed to know you can do it.  Hmmmmm....

      I am the fellow citizen of every being that thinks; my country is Truth. ~Alphonse de Lamartine, "Marseillaise of Peace," 1841

      by notdarkyet on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 01:45:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Jury nullification? Hm (5+ / 0-)

    It's a problematic question. At face value, the idea of the jury as a check against government tyranny seems like an appealing idea. The problem is that one person's idea of tyranny is another's idea of fair and equal justice for all.

    After all, there were many cases of juries failing to convict clear-cut murderers because of racial issues in the Jim Crow South. Isn't that nullification?

    In any case I disagree with your assertion that:

    Otherwise juries would be reduced to mere rubber stamps with the government able to convict anyone of anything they choose to make illegal.

    The government is still obliged to present convincing evidence that the accused actually committed the acts they were accused of.

    "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

    by Demi Moaned on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 11:57:38 AM PST

    •  Since when (0+ / 0-)

      did laws that are enacted by representatives we elect become government tyranny?

    •  Nullification isn't perfect (0+ / 0-)

      Racial induced nullifications in the South certainly happened, but they weren't the prime issue.  Only about 2% of lynchings were brought to a jury.  Local police, prosecutors and judges let far more people go than juries did.  Juries had a far better track record than the rest of our criminal justice system did in those circumstances of deep cultural injustices.

      The question ultimately comes down to whether we have greater faith in our government officials or our fellow citizens.  No doubt it's a lesser of two evils kind of choice.

  •  If the FIJA effoerts are helpful, and the Judge's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    order interferes with helpful information of jurors, then I am at a loss to understand why FIJA would call a halt to such efforts in Florida.

    neca politicos omnes; deus nullos agnoscet.

    by khereva on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 12:12:38 PM PST

    •  At what point does it become tampering? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ortcutt, elmo, erush1345

      We let judges decide what information gets into the hands of jurors and potential jurors.

      APSCU is the trade group of diploma mills that rip off students and the government.

      by Rich in PA on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 12:14:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And if judges hide pertinent information? (0+ / 0-)

        Since that's the main point under contention.

        Sorry, I don't listen to "we'll fix that later" any more. We've been lied to about that way too many times by too many people.

        As a free citizen, I most certainly do NOT "let judges decide what information gets into" my hands. I instead assume that any and all information is to be made available unless the government can demonstrate a compelling interest to keep it concealed.

        neca politicos omnes; deus nullos agnoscet.

        by khereva on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 12:20:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Pertinent information' is a tricky notion, (0+ / 0-)

          and you have to ask yourselves whether you want defendants, and the damge to victims, adjudicated under the law as written, or just on the say so notwithstanding the law, of whichever twelve get picked. Would you want your criminal case adjudicated by twelve CPAC members who feel free to ignore the law as written? Or to decide the only pertinent information is some prejudicial crap an attorney or a newspaper got them to hear, which is not part of the admissible evidence in their case at all. Being a civil rights worker when accused of literally anything, in the South. Being an Arab or a Muslim. Whatever works to ring that juror's bells, whether or not evidence in the case.

          Yes, the law says that the prosecution must put in a case beyond reasonable doubt, but remember that many cases can meet that standard and properly acting juries can agree or disagree or split on what they think about that.

          All this 'jury nullification' does is weaken still another institution of our government, replacing the strict rules with a mushy notion of romantic independence, when it is not the proponents facing years and years in a small box with hostile cell mates, if I may put that mildly, against the family robbed or one of its members dead, or defrauded of all its savings, for which the only remedy is a trial.

          •  So the attorneys have no responsibility to... (0+ / 0-)

            ...see that the jury is representative, or to introduce pertinent evidence?

            All this "weakening our government" talk does is trample on the rights of citizens, replacing our freedom with the tyranny of institutions.

            I don't grant government a monopoly on the law.

            Now that they have effectively given the monopoly on making law to corporations, I will NOT also give them a monopoly on its interpretation.

            neca politicos omnes; deus nullos agnoscet.

            by khereva on Thu Feb 03, 2011 at 01:24:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  The judge is not decided anything (0+ / 0-)

          about information outside the courthouse. The judge does have a duty to follow the rules of evidence with respect to what goes on inside the courthouse, though.

          In a criminal trial, this hogwash about jury nullification could result in an innocent person being convicted.

  •  I would nullify a lot of drug cases (4+ / 0-)

    without needing any pamphlet.

  •  not like a lynch mob (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AUBoy2007, kurt, wilderness voice

    While there are good things and bad things about jury nullification, it's worth noting that jury nullification is not at all like a "lynch mob" or "frontier justice" in one very central respect: it is a decision to free the defendant from punishment notwithstanding the facts. That's generally the opposite of what we think of when we think of lunch mobs.

  •  well sorta (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You're right in that sense. Not like the mob itself – which "convicts" the accused without a trial at all. But yes like juries which refuse to convict participants in those mobs.

    There's a pretty big difference as I see it. The jury which nullifies protects the accused from the power of the state. The result is an absence of punishment.

  •  Read "To Kill A Mockingbird" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Prosecutors do what they damn well want to with impunity, and so do "judges" and jurors.

    Miscarriages of justice happen as a result.


  •  could impact the court’s ability (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to conduct the efficient, prompt, and proper administration of justice.

    ie - inhibit our ability to have a kangaroo court.

    hey judge Perry, your court is inhibiting the ability of lynch mobs to conduct efficient, prompt hangings.

  •  Plowshares group (0+ / 0-)

    I read about this in one of Zinn's book, but the Plowshares group has been leading the charge against nuclear weapon proliferation for a few decades. They take direct action to destroy components of nuclear weapons before they can be assembled.  If they were arrested for busting up nose cones in King of Prussia, PA.  Their lawyers are not allowed to introduce evidence to lead to jury nullification.  Shame they're not, because if I was on a jury, I'd nullify.

    Nullification Denied

    King of Prussia case

  •  Double standard? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The judge's order says, "...approaching a summoned juror for the purpose of or counseling with information tending to influence summoned jurors on any matter, question, cause, or proceeding which may be pending, or which may by law be brought, before him or her as such juror, shall be prohibited on the Orange County Courthouse complex grounds."

    Doesn't that mean the judge is in violation of his own order if he issues jury instructions?  How can this order apply to FIJA but not to the judge?  Judge thyself!

  •  Those arguing against jury nullification consider (0+ / 0-)

    The constitutions of Maryland, Indiana, Oregon, and Georgia currently have provisions guaranteeing the
    right of jurors to "judge" or "determine" the law in "all criminal cases."

    Article 23 of Maryland’s Constitution states:
    In the trial of all criminal cases, the Jury shall be the Judges of Law, as well as of fact, except that the
    Court may pass upon the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a conviction. The right of trial by Jury
    of all issues of fact in civil proceedings in the several Courts of Law in this State, where the amount in
    controversy exceeds the sum of five thousand dollars, shall be inviolably preserved.

    Art. 1, Sec. 19, of Indiana’s Constitution says:
    In all criminal cases whatever, the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts.

    Oregon’s Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 16, states:
    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed. Cruel and unusual punishments shall
    not be inflicted, but all penalties shall be proportioned to the offense. In all criminal cases whatever, the
    jury shall have the right to determine the law, and the facts under the direction of the Court as to the law,
    and the right of new trial, as in civil cases.

    Art. 1, Sec. 1 of Georgia’s Constitution says:
    The right to trial by jury shall remain inviolate, except that the court shall render judgment without the
    verdict of a jury in all civil cases where no issuable defense is filed and where a jury is not demanded
    in writing by either party. In criminal cases, the defendant shall have a public and speedy trial by an
    impartial jury; and the jury shall be judges of the law and the facts.

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