Letter to a Young Juror

Column by Jim Davies.

Exclusive to STR

(With acknowledgements to C.S. Lewis and Christopher Hitchens.)

So, nephew, you've been called to serve on a jury. Congratulations!

I was very glad to learn last month that you plan never to vote again, so it's a good idea to get yourself off the voters' list. But meanwhile, you're still on it – hence this opportunity to help some victims of government “justice.”

Juries go back a long time in history. In the early Middle Ages, if someone in the village appeared to have done wrong, he was called before its elders for judgment to be made. Most of them knew him, and his background, and so were well equipped to judge fairly. And there was no “law” as we are used to the term; nothing was handed down as a decree, by some higher authority such as a king. Rather, these elders “discovered law” by wrestling with the rights and wrongs of each case, and letting news of their decisions travel around. This was the practice in much of Europe, and was especially well done in Iceland.

It was the practice in England, but not after William of Normandy conquered it. From 1066 on, the King's edict was in force; he was lawgiver, judge and executioner. Until 1215, that is, when a gathering of his lieutenants decided they'd had enough. As the price of agreeing to join King John on one of his Crusades, they made him sign away that absolute power. From then on in England (and so in America), juries were instituted, with the express and primary purpose of overruling the King's law, if and when they saw fit.

So the main reason you and the 11 other jurors will have, for sitting in judgment on the accused person, is to decide whether the government's law is appropriate for the case. It's not primarily to decide whether or not he did what he's accused of doing, but on whether he is truly and culpably guilty of doing harm to a fellow human being. Trained lawyers are, after all, probably better able than we are, to judge whether or not he did the deed; the point of layman juries is to judge whether what he did deserves blame.

And governments (like King John) really hate this. They do all they can to conceal from you this true purpose and power of jurors. They'd much prefer you to be a rubber stamp, so that they can claim their rule was endorsed by “impartial jurors.” So that's why I'm writing.

There are a few key things to bear in mind, if you will.

The Questionnaire: answer it truthfully of course, but with great care. In my opinion, there should be no questionnaire; jurors should be taken at random, from among the population of which the accused is a member (as in “a jury of his peers”). But it will be there, anyway, and you'll have to fill out the form. One particular question is key: “Will you accept the Law as it is explained to you by the judge?” You must answer yes, or else you'll not be on the jury. Don't ask questions about it (they really dislike jurors who can think for themselves, or “question authority”)--just check “yes” and move on.

Will you be lying, when you do so? Not really. You will be saying Yes, of course, I will take the Judge's opinion into account, for he's an important person well schooled in the law; just as the lawyers for the prosecution and defense are important. I will take everything into account that seems to me to bear on the case, as my conscience directs.

But by your “Yes,” you will not be agreeing to obey the judge; for if jurors merely did what the judge told them to do, there would be no point in having a jury. They know that very well.

So, by filling out the questionnaire the way any docile, obedient, empty-headed citizen would fill it out, you get to enjoy the priceless privilege of being able to help save a fellow human being from brutalization by government. With any luck, you'll be “on” the jury.

If there's no victim, refuse to convict. Roughly half of all the more than two million people now in a government cage are there despite the fact that they did harm to nobody. They may (or may not) have broken some law, but they injured nobody. That is outrageous, and as a juror you may now be able to help stop it getting worse.

It doesn't matter if the other 11 jurors vote “guilty.” You will vote to acquit. It doesn't matter if they try to bully you into changing your vote, so they can get home and watch the match. It doesn't matter if they try to force you to say why; say nothing! Zip your lips! Nobody has any right to know why you vote as you do! The room will be full of snitches, ready to tell the world whatever you do say; so don't say anything at all, except “not guilty” or “my conscience will not let me convict this person.” There is nothing they can do. The verdict may be a “hung jury” and maybe the case will be re-tried; it doesn't matter. The accused's fate will not be on your conscience.

So, for example, the accused may clearly have broken the government's law about not buying, selling or using certain drugs. Let's say the evidence proves that. Was there a victim of his actions (other than himself, perhaps)? NO! The transactions were all perfectly voluntary. So there was no victim. So he is innocent. So you will refuse to convict him.

Or perhaps he ran a red light, but nobody was even inconvenienced, let alone scared by his action, let alone injured. No victim, hence no guilt. Even though he broke the law. See?

Even if there is a victim, maybe vote to acquit. Again, the proper – just – standard will be, did the accused do harm to someone, by initiating force in some way? Now, this will be much less common. If someone purposely hurt someone else, he usually deserves blame. But not always; and that's where your judgment as a juror comes in.

For example, suppose you had sat on the jury of the trial of the Waco survivors. Recall: the government had invaded their church property, guns blazing. Some of them shot back, and some of the shots killed government agents. So there were victims, and certainly, by resisting the invasion the accused did break the government's law. But were they “guilty”?

Not in my book. They were, rather, exercising their absolute right of self-defense. But their jury didn't have anyone like you, so they were convicted. And then sentenced to forty years in a government cage.

That reminds me: Part of the government's law, which you have the power to nullify, consists of the sentencing process. If you judge that the accused is guilty, but not so much as to deserve anything close to the sentence the judge will probably hand down, vote to acquit. You will be the only barrier, between the accused and a serious injustice.

If the defendant is hindered, vote to acquit. Guilty or innocent, no matter; if the Judge orders the defendant or his counsel not to show you something they want to show or tell you, then he is hindering his defense and that should cause you immediately to decide to vote “not guilty.” Government judges do this quite often, for when their employer is a party to the case (as in a tax prosecution, for example) they are not at all unbiased and will do all they can to bring about a government victory. The Schiff trial was a shocking case in point.

Finally, bone up on FIJA in the time you now have before you enter the government's room where the jury will be selected. This is the Fully Informed Jury Association, and there is no better source of advice for those about to take on this formidable responsibility. FIJA has done fine work in trying to get government to admit openly that juries have the right to nullify laws if they see fit and has succeeded in some states. What they say is true everywhere.

That's about it; if you'll please reflect on what FIJA says and what I've written here, you'll do justice when you join the jury, and I wish you well.

When you've done so and the case is over, your conscience will be clear – and that's the main thing. You will live with that conscience, just as the defendant will live with your verdict. But there's yet more you might do, after it's all over.

You might consider whether this whole arrangement of laws and trials and juries can properly be called a “justice system” or whether something radically different is needed – and if you think it is, join me in working for it to come about. For instance...

  • Ought there to be “laws” at all? I don't think so. Laws are merely one-sided contracts, or the opinions of pompous people who possess de-facto power in society: “government.” Laws try to codify conduct – which in reality has an infinitude of variation. The village elders of Saxon England had a much clearer idea of what justice was all about. Naturally, laws will prevail as long as government prevails; so this is another good reason to do away with government. Why not?
  • Ought there to be “punishment” of the “guilty,” in any form? I don't think so. If A has harmed B, then A owes B the duty of restoring him to his former unharmed status, as far as is feasible. Nothing else! No third party should be involved, except as arbiter if needed. Any and all court cases should be of the form A vs. B, where both are real persons.
  • Are juries needed at all? I don't think so, unless A or B requests one, and then jurors should be paid properly for their time instead of being expected to serve indefinitely for a mere pittance, as you will be--in a form of slavery.

There's more, as you may remember seeing in my remarks on Justice in a free society. So again, will you join me in causing that free society to come about?

Best wishes,

Your Affectionate Uncle

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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched http://TinyURL.com/QuitGov , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?" and in 2016, an unraveling of the great paradox of "income tax law" with "How Government Silenced Irwin Schiff."


Thunderbolt's picture

Ben Swann has a group that is in accord with what you describe, Jim: Just Us, is the name. Brilliant essay and correct, as always.

Samarami's picture

This was good, Jim.

There are thousands of young "Pauliens" out there who need to hear this. They "...have ears to hear..."

They're just a step or two ahead of where I was (a "Goldwaterite") exactly 50 years ago -- last time I registered to vote (still paying poll tax in Texas).


Glen Allport's picture

Really excellent, Jim. The government calls one of their more oppressive agencies "the Justice Department" because people WANT justice; the need for fairness and honesty in such things is very profound and important. But actual justice is not what that department delivers, for the most part. As you point out so well, the jury is the last-ditch chance for justice in America, and in whatever other countries still have an actual jury system. We are very close to losing ours because prosecutors and legislators and judges -- many of them, at least -- are doing everything they can to teach that the jury has no right to do what a jury was specifically designed to do: vote their conscience and put actual justice ahead of the laws and schemes and often the corruption of those in power.
You've given the topic a warm, personal touch which is just what it needs, I think, to get through all the pro-coercion, pro-Power propaganda. 

Jim Davies's picture

Thank you, gentlemen! Ben Swann seems to have it right, and Sam, you have a fine idea to get this perception across to Paulians. Glen, you're right - we are close to the last ditch. Meanwhile FIJA continues to fend off the fascists.
Suggestion to everyone: we may know someone about to join a jury. Tell them Uncle has written?