A Jury of One’s Peers…

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Here’s another one we’ve lost sight of – the true and intended meaning of, that is:

A jury of one’s peers.

Though not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, the concept is an ancient element of English Common Law – on which our Constitution (RIP) was based. The men of a community would gather to weigh evidence presented against someone – someone they knew. Unfortunately, what we have today is an altogether different animal. You may find yourself tried in front of a jury – but they will not be your peers. It is an important distinction – one that bears relearning.

Not peers in the royal sense – but rather, people who know you; your neighbors in the community. That was what was meant – and intended – by a jury of one’s peers. Because it provides a necessary context now absent from most court proceedings – and a check against gratuitous prosecution and excessive or even unnecessary punishment.

Consider:

Smith is your neighbor. You’ve known him for years. He’s a good guy. Responsible and honest. One day, he’s accused of something and it goes before a jury. You are a member of that jury. You consider the facts as presented – but in the context of your personal knowledge of Smith. You also happen to know that Smith’s neighbor – who filed the charges – is a mean SOB who has had it in for Smith ever since Smith married the girl that Jones was sweet on back in high school.

Are the charges against Smith in keeping with his character? Do they strike you as reasonable, given what you know?  If the case is purely circumstantial – as many cases are – knowing Smith (and knowing the situation with the neighbor next door) provides an important factor absent from current jury trials – where the jury is composed of anything but one’s peers. A modern jury is nothing more than a group of random strangers who don’t know you from Adam – and who have been vetted and selected specifically so as to filter out the intelligent and thoughtful in favor of the dull and passive. People who will ignore relevant evidence, if it is not provided to them within the appropriate legal construct.

These jurors don’t know Smith – and they certainly don’t know about the  bad blood between Smith and his neighbor. It can make all the difference in the world as regards the eventual outcome – and as regards justice.

Another scenario:

Johnson is an excellent driver. Hasn’t had an accident in decades; everyone who’s been in a car with him knows he can handle a machine. One day, an out-of-town trooper nails him for “reckless driving” because he exceeded a statutory maximum. No one was harmed – and no claim has been made that any actual harm was threatened – other than the asserted (and extremely dubious) argument that driving faster than “x” arbitrarily selected speed is “reckless” by definition. Johnson points out he was in full control of his vehicle; that the day was clear; that all he did was get caught driving faster than an arbitrarily set number – and that what he did, while perhaps a violation of the speed limit, certainly wasn’t “reckless” by any reasonable standard.

Would you vote to convict Johnson?

Knowing Johnson – that is, knowing the context – probably not.

Contrariwise, there’s Old Man Jones. He’s half-blind – and half-in-the-bag most days. He’s almost run you off the road a couple times – and last year, he ran over your dog. Same charge – but entirely different situation. Because it’s an entirely different context. You and your fellow jurors – Jones’ peers –  know he’s a terrible driver. The old guy should have turned in his keys 10 years ago.

A “reckless driving” charge might be entirely warranted.

But, you also know that Jones – though a terrible driver – is an ok guy who means well. Or at least, he meant no harm. He shouldn’t be in jail. He just shouldn’t be behind the wheel. So he’s told it’s time to hang up his driving gloves (or get a new set of glasses), is properly admonished – and sent on his way.

In this way, a jury of one’s peers serves to fine-tune the application of justice so that it is more just.

Court proceedings should, of course, be impartial – but not to the extent of being obtuse. And obtuse – even evil – is precisely what we have today. Mindless worship of statutes as opposed to the spirit animating them. No harm done (or intended) no longer matters. Just “the law” – as interpreted by twelve random strangers.

That’s neither impartial – nor just.

Rather, it’s mechanical – a sort of clockwork action devoid of context and so, ultimately, devoid of meaning.

Jefferson revered the local for a number of reasons but probably the bedrock one was that it’s the only scale of human society in which authoritay can be effectively kept within its proper limits. Bigness leads inevitably to bureaucracy – and bureaucracy is the essence of modern evil. Cold, impersonal. And macro. An army of drones administering – another army of drones enforcing. They don’t know you – and they don’t care.

Just do as you’re told.

Submit. Obey.

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eric

Author of "Automotive Atrocities" and "Road Hogs" (MBI). Currently living amongst the Edentulites in rural SW Virginia. 

  71 comments for “A Jury of One’s Peers…

  1. Jay Wocky
    March 23, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    I could have used a jury of my peers about 20 years ago, but a jury was not an option.

    Commuting for the first time to a new job, I approached a school zone @8am in an unfamiliar neighborhood. It was posted 20mph “during restricted hours,” which were specified neither by the signage or by a flashing signal. Nonetheless, I decelerated from the posted 35mph as I approached an intersection. On one corner was a little schoolgirl. I immediately focused on her, making sure I could clear the intersection without hitting her, no matter what move she made. I was not looking at my dashboard.

    The officer (whom I was not looking for) at the curb just past the scene waved me over. He wrote me a ticket, despite my presenting a good case against it.

    I had the option of contesting the ticket in “mayor’s court,” which I chose to do. Preparing my case, I discovered that, for the two schools in that neighborhood, there was a total of six school zone approaches, all marked with signs. But only one lacked a flashing signal: the one at which I had been stopped. I diagrammed all this in court on the available blackboard. I explained that I was unfamiliar with the road, but driving attentively. I had seen the kid and made sure that she would not be harmed by my car as I was driving it. I suggested that, if the city really wanted to leverage the safety of their schoolkids by keeping drivers alerted, they would add a flashing light to this intersection, instead of trapping drivers there who had no way of knowing the specifics of the school zone’s speed parameters.

    I was very polite and respectful, as well as professional in my demeanor.

    The mayor thanked me for my presentation, and for what it revealed. Fined me the full amount, plus court costs.

    About six weeks later, after being unable to find a better way to work, I took my ill-fated maiden route once again. I noted that the problematic school zone approach now had a flashing light for restricted hours. Paid for right out of my pocket, no doubt.

    Which shows, as usual, that no good deed goes unpunished. And that anyone who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.

    I’d say a jury of my peers–as described by Eric–would have let me walk, er, drive away scot-free.

    • kman
      March 24, 2012 at 1:19 am

      Not always the case. I’ve beaten a few tickets in court (boy that feels good.) I wont bore you with the details unless you ask but I will say that the legal defense kit from the national motorists association is worth every penny.
      Aside from that Id say that all should look into the “fully informed jury” idea and Jury nullification as an honest americans defense against the machine.

    • dom
      March 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      Jay, we are in need of some funding for a speed bump in front of my house. Could you come over here and do some high speed pulls to help pay for it? That is a funny story. I would be pissed!

      This is awesome:

      “And that anyone who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.”

      • Jay Wocky
        March 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm

        Thanks, dom. I can’t take credit for the “awesome” quote. That’s an oldie. I guess I might have been more pissed at the time, except that the mayor was just so blasted gracious and amiable as he thanked me…before he imposed the fine. And the irony of seeing shortly thereafter what my fine paid for brings a wry smile to this day.

        As for the speed bump funding: You’re on your own for that, bro.

        • dom
          March 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm

          I’ve created a few speed bumps in my day, just so happens the county filled them back in again last week. I’ll be out there again soon slowing them bastards down. I live on a 15mph street and I don’t mind people speeding, but when people are walking on the road in the middle of the day and they’re still flying the shit pisses me off.

          • Ken
            March 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm

            Use a foil covered hair dryer and a video camera. I would point it at speeding drivers like a radar gun with my wife taping me pointing at the screen. Folks hit the brakes real fast. Latter just video taping was enough to slow folks down.

      • UncleSim
        March 26, 2012 at 9:32 am

        I’ve represented myself in traffic court at least 5 times, and have ALWAYS had the charge and/or penalty reduced significantly, and twice walked away scot-free.

        I wouldn’t recommend ALWAYS representing one’s self, but I would recommend ALWAYS challenging traffic violations. And NEVER tell the issuing officer your intent to challenge.

        • March 26, 2012 at 9:43 am

          Amen to that!

          My last stop, the cop asked the usual leading question: Do you know why I stopped you?

          My answer: I’m sure you’ll tell me.

          Never give them anything. But be calm, polite. Try to be as anonymous as possible. Then game the system. Get continuances. File multiple discovery requests. Etc. Often the pricks will “make a deal” that at least lets you “get off” with just a monetary fine and a non-moving violation. It still sucks, but it’s a one-time hit. The thing to avoid at all costs is the moving violation and subsequent “points” on your DMV record.

          • Andrew F.
            March 26, 2012 at 2:13 pm

            My answer is: “Sorry, I can’t answer that, officer.”

            [Can't?... or won't?]

          • freak
            March 27, 2012 at 5:23 am

            I’ve generally been more lucky with being honest. When they pose their leading question they are expecting you to bullsh*t them or feign ignorance. So if I’m pulled over for speeding, when they ask I tell them it was probably because I was speeding. This has usually resulted in a warning.

            In fact making them laugh works wonders too. Once I was pulled over and he asked if I knew what the speed limit was in that area. By coincidence I’d pulled over not 50′ from a sign. I pointed to it and said that I can see now from the sign that it was 50mph. He looked and laughed and just said to slow down.

          • March 27, 2012 at 9:47 am

            My experience also – but… I’ve grown tired of bowin’ and scrapin’ … the whole yessa massa routine. I agree it works – but I chafe at the whole interaction. My political awakening has made it impossible for me to do other than radiate my contempt for them.

      • Donald
        March 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm

        And anyone that that would let a government owned lawyer speak for him is also a fool, so now that we agree that we are all fools, I’ll speak for myself and I expect you to speak for yourself.

        • Boothe
          March 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm

          Donald, once upon a time I asked my family attorney (and trusted friend) “are you an officer of the court?” He replied in the affirmative. So I then asked him if his first responsibility was to the court and he hesitantly acknowledged that it was. So then I asked him if he considered his second priority to be himself and his practice, which he agreed was true. Then I asked “So as a paying client, at best, my interests only come in third?” He said that was pretty much right. The point being they’re practically all government owned and they work within the system because they are “the system”. And a man whose livelihood relies on that system certainly isn’t going to do anything that might dismantle it even to the detriment of a client. After all *your* attorney, the prosecutor, the court clerk, the bailiff and the judge get to keep their money and go home to dinner that night, regardless of what “the system” does to you.

          • Don
            March 27, 2012 at 4:52 pm

            Amen brother!

            I noticed how when I got my statutory reckless driving citation in Virginia that all of a sudden all these attorneys had my phone number and were calling me to give them $800 to get it reduced to a speeding ticket. Gee I wonder how they got my personal information?

            Nuff said about who works for whom.

          • mithrandir
            March 27, 2012 at 5:22 pm

            Don,

            I asked an attorney in NJ how he received my information regarding my ticket.

            He stated that they make a request for public records. IIRC, it was a type of freedom of information act.

            It is a system, some may call it a racket.

          • Boothe
            March 27, 2012 at 8:45 pm

            Out here in Mark Twain’s, Jesse James’ and William Quantrill’s home state we have CaseNet on-line for your convenience. If you get arrested, have a civil case, a traffic ticket, divorce, etc., all I have to do is perform a name search on you for the dirt and I get your address and DOB too, all *for free! I don’t even have to be an attorney, just curious.

            (* for free = at taxpayer expense)

    • libertyx
      March 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm

      “The primary function of the independent juror is not, as many think, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from the tyrannical abuses of power by government.”

      The Constitution guarantees you the right to trial by jury. This means that government must bring its case before a jury of The People if government wants to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property. Jurors can say no to government tyranny by refusing to convict.”

      See: http://www.fija.com – Fully Informed Jury Association

      • libertyx
        March 26, 2012 at 9:08 pm

        Correction-

        http://www.fija.org It’s dot org, not dot com

        Fully Informed Jury Association

  2. Mike in Spotsy
    March 24, 2012 at 12:38 am

    I could write a volume on this topic, having spent the first few years of my career as a criminal trial attorney. Fortunately, I got out of that line of business — the main reason was so that I could look at myself in the mirror without puking.

    Suffice it to say that you have, as usual, hit the nail on the head, Eric. The modern jury bears no resemblance to the jury that the Constitution envisioned. Jurors are selected specifically for their ability to be misled by the lawyers, not for their ability to think or to understand the nuances of the case. They are especially not to have any familiarity with the defendant, or to identify with said defendant in any way. In other words, the system is rigged. Let me leave it at that.

    • March 24, 2012 at 10:36 am

      I almost went to law school… Elvis be praised that I had second thoughts in good time to dodge that bullet! Now, journalism hasn’t made me rich or famous, but I don’t feel unclean and I do (mostly) have a good time. My only real regret is that I didn’t get more active in racing at a young age. Not much money there, either (for most people; unless you strike that proverbial pot o’ gold and get a ride) but it would have been fun! Also airplanes. I love airplanes… but I’m too po’ to even think about that….

      • That One Guy
        March 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm

        Hey Eric-

        These guys have put together kit planes on a $10k budget, including the cost of the VW engines that power them.

        http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/ten_grand.html#

        Here’s a group of guys who build kit planes with Corvair power!

        http://www.flycorvair.com/planes.html

        An accomplished afro-engineer should be able to handle a project like this. And if it doesn’t work out, you can throw it in the woods and shoot it!

        • March 24, 2012 at 10:32 pm

          I’ve looked into this – and it is tempting!

        • UncleSim
          March 26, 2012 at 9:37 am

          Afro-engineer? C’mon… this would have been a great time to use ‘jury-rigging’!

      • methylamine
        March 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm

        But Eric you can make a small fortune in racing!
        Assuming you started with a large one, that is. :)

        • March 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm

          Ha!

          That’s an oldie – but still a goodie!

      • Chris
        March 24, 2012 at 11:31 pm

        Yeah, you may have missed out on millions of dollars, but you never had to ask yourself,

        “How much is a good night’s sleep worth?”

        • March 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

          Indeed.

          Once one realizes how our system actually works – what it’s based on – it’s really hard to partake of it in any way without knowing, deep down, that you’re part of the problem.

          The other day I had another conversation with my “conservative” friend and (again) the subject of SS came up. He reiterated that while he’s opposed to the system, he wants “what he paid in.” I replied, a bit elliptically, that the evil genius of our system is that it gets everyone to dip his finger in blood, so to speak. So many of us have become dependent on the government in one way or another – whether it’s a direct dole payment or something less obvious, such as getting “contracts” from the government that your business depends on to survive – that we lose our moral standing to object in principle to any of it.

          Hence, the silly superficial arguments: “It costs too much” or “it’s not run efficiently.” Never: This program is immoral and needs to be closed down.

          • Chris
            March 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm

            Eric,

            I remember you used the term “Reciprocal Parasitism” once or twice, and I think that’s dead on.

            You can’t pay for college for your own kids because of the government’s income tax, so you have to get a loan from them, which they fund by stealing money from someone else.

            And then the college education turns out to be worthless because the government has done so much damage to the economy, the kids can’t get a job.

          • March 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm

            Yup. And I have to admit – it’s clever. Best con ever, in fact.

            On kids/school: My degree cost me about $4.5k a year (GMU in Fairfax, Va.) Very manageable. A student could afford to pay his way and be a full-time student. Graduate with no debt. This was the 1980s. Fast forward: Same school, same degree – but now the cost is about $13k a year. Most students must take out a loan to finance this – which means they graduate with debt around their necks. And the they find out there aren’t any jobs, or the jobs they can get don’t pay much more than a job they could have gotten right out of HS.

            All I can say is I am glad I am not 20 in 2012!

          • mikehell
            March 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm

            “All I can say is I am glad I am not 20 in 2012!”

            Meh, there are lots of days when I wish I were 20 and starting over. Sure, there are plenty of troubles today but there are also sooooo many more opportunities for the thinking entrepreneur than there were back in the 80s. Hell, the crisis itself is an opportunity if you understand what the problem is.

            Now, if I could start out at 20 again but with all the knowledge I have today then I’d be king of hill. :)

          • dom
            March 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm

            You said it brother!

            “Now, if I could start out at 20 again but with all the knowledge I have today then I’d be king of hill. :)”

            Mahn, wouldn’t that be sweet!

            You’re absolutely right. Being able to understand this situation and ways to capitalize on it is the key.

    • Graham Dugas
      March 26, 2012 at 5:42 pm

      Stop complaining and do what it takes to get seated as a juror every chance you get.

      http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig10/dugas1.html

  3. Eric_G
    March 24, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Two years ago I was on a jury. I guess that means I’m not bright enough to be able to get out of it, but in a way I was looking forward to doing my civic duty.

    I won’t get into all the details of the case, but suffice to say it involved a stepdaughter and stepfather and things that might happen when when a certain type of men are around young women who aren’t their biological daughters. Basically the guy was scum.

    But he was also a deputy sheriff. The trial happened in Pitkin County, but the DA from the next county over presented the case against him. The investigation was done by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in order to prevent bias. On paper it looked like there’d be no favoritism. On paper at least.

    First, there was no hard evidence. This, despite there being testimony from his wife that evidence was viewed ON THE LAPTOP HE WAS ASSIGNED BY THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT! But for some reason they didn’t bother attempting to recover it. Instead they took another computer that everyone testified they never tried to use! The CBI officer didn’t bother to even go to the home where the “event” took place to even get pictures, instead asking the defendant’s wife to take a few snapshots for him!

    In the end, we managed to convict him on 2 charges, so at least he’s not in law enforcement anymore. But not only did it basically destroy any hope I had in humanity, it basically solidified my view that cops will go to great lengths to take care of their own, and we really have no way to stop it.

    Needless to say, I’ll not go through that again.

    • Jay Wocky
      March 24, 2012 at 4:36 am

      I have been summoned for jury “duty” twice, @30 years apart. In both cases, I was excused because of honest hardship circumstances (no one pays the self-employed for their time off or business lost).

      Part of me would like to have served. However, the smarter part of me is virtually certain that I could never give honest answers during the impaneling process and still be seated. And as much as I’d love to be sand in the gears of our “legal” system, I could never bring myself to lie my way into the jury box.

      • BrentP
        March 24, 2012 at 5:12 am

        I would be dismissed the moment they found out I knew the actual purpose of the jury. So far I’ve never gotten that far into the process. The randomizing never chose me to get to that point.

    • March 24, 2012 at 10:14 am

      Hideous.

      Stories like this have caused me to re-evaluate my attitude toward serving on a jury. Formerly, I’d have done almost anything to dodge it. Now, I think I’d play along to get on the jury – and then use my own judgment as to how to vote. If I believed the person was innocent and being railroaded I’d do my best to nullify – to acquit or at least “hang” the jury. If on the other hand I believed the person was scum but shysterism or incompetence tended toward a “not guilty based on the (cough) evidence” (think OJ) I’d vote guilty regardless and encourage the others to do so,too.

      • BrentP
        March 24, 2012 at 3:23 pm

        The judges have had jurors who practice the true purpose of the jury, that is the nullification of bad law, or simply being the one out of 12 that refused to convict charged with contempt of court and jailed. Especially if that judge believes the juror played along as to get on the jury instead of being dismissed.

      • Jean
        June 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm

        Just be aware, you can now be prosecuted for such things.
        And you would not be the first…

  4. Gail
    March 24, 2012 at 10:45 am

    The jury system is a hot button for me, but for reasons other than Eric discusses. I have two.

    First, jury nullification. As a juror, I would welcome the judge’s instructions on things like legal definitions and the like, things I wouldn’t be expected to know as a layman. If the defendant is accused of assault, and the judge explains how that is different from aggravated assault or simple assault or assault and battery or any of the other ten kinds, for all I know. What would get my back up is the judge directing how I should regard the evidence; you must disregard testimony by witness A, or consider exhibit C only from so-and-so a perspective, and like that. If it comes out, it’s on the table, period. Otherwise, what are juries for? The judge should do his job, preside over the trial, and then butt out.

    Second is trial lawyers turning jury selection into the extravagantly over-the-top circus that it has become. Jury selection has itself become a cottage industry that has more to do with billing hours than actually selecting jurors. The endless and minute questioning of prospective jurors — the voir dire — is so assinine that I wonder that judges haven’t reined it in long ago.

    Like Jay and Brent, I would never survive the process into the jury box. Only a dumb and passive sheep would put up with it. The first time I answered a question, “Nunya business”, I’d be excused.

    I have a proposal for a better way to select a jury that I can go into if this thread develops. Hint: Trial lawyers everywhere would scream as from the fires of hell.

    Actually, I’m not all that exercised over the prospect of being tried by strangers — *so long as* my jurors had the ability to think, and to recognize and weigh the evidence rationally. However, since that apparently eliminates 96% of the population, then in that case I would prefer a jury of my peers, most definitely! The last thing I would wish for is a panel that judged me based on emotion and the kind of wayward kneejerk process that passes for thought anymore.

    I don’t know if you remember the OJ Simpson trial. (I was a trial junkie! No detail too minute!) Those jurors were a perfect example of what I’m talking about. I happen to have proof, or close to it, that that jury intended from the first to acquit him. This man who committed two brutal murders, who did, in the words of Vince Bugliosi, everything but leave an 8×12 pic of himself at the scene, whom a jury of ten-year-olds would have found guilty, was allowed to walk free by a group of stupid, amoral people who had an entirely different axe to grind. That’s not the jury you want hearing your case.

    • Eric_G
      March 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      It really doesn’t work that way. If testimony is objected to, the first thing that happens is the witness is told to stop talking. Then the attorneys and judge get together and whisper their arguments to each other, covering their mouths so the jurors can’t read their lips. If the argument gets more involved the judge will send the jury out while who knows what goes on in the courtroom. It might be hours until the jury is back and in the case I was seated on several witnesses were there and gone when we got back. None of them said anything noteworthy prior to the objection.

      As far a juror nullification, there would have to be VERY specific reasons for attempting something like that. The judge gave us a lot of clearly written rules for our deliberations (that some people just didn’t understand), and any questions we had were written down and given to the judge, who promptly answered them.

      The few of us who actually could follow instructions and read ended up trying to explain to the other people who thought the nice man would never lie under oath to save his ass that yes, people can and do lie under oath, and have selective memory, and that stated intent and actions don’t make sense.

      In Colorado, the jury is permitted to ask questions of witnesses. That is a very good thing. They have to be in writing and go through the judge and attorneys, but for me it helped answer a lot of questions about the botched investigation that the prosecutor didn’t think important.

      It ain’t Perry Mason.

      • Gail
        March 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm

        But, see, that business of bench conferences and sending the jury out, that’s just another way of manipulating the jury. There’s this set of insider rules crafted by judges and lawyers as to what the jury may or may not hear. And, what, they’re supposed to take the judge’s word for it that “nothing noteworthy” was said out of their presence? When the judge makes that decision, he’s co-opting a judgment that should be the jury’s to make. He’s deciding for the jury what it will hear and not hear.

        I’m sure there are times when a bench conference is necessary, but the standard for what is “necessary” is too easy to morph into taking too much decision making power away from the jury.

        Yeah, it’s the “clearly written rules for deliberation” that I have a problem with. I think I know what you mean; probably many if not most of those rules have to do with the proper application of the manner in which a jury can deliberate — like you say, the caution that witnesses do lie under oath, and what “reasonable doubt” means and so on. But there are ways and ways of saying things …

        As for querying the jury, yes, when the stakes are low, like an ordinary drug bust or some such, the voir dire is probably low key, too. But these big trials — tobacco settlesments or malpractice suits involving lotsa money, they go too far overboard, IMO. The lawyers charge something like double (not sure if that’s in all cases) for court time as opposed to trial prep time; drawing out jury selection is easy money! And the taxpayers have to pay for all that time for the prosecution as well.

        You’re right, Perry Mason *never* saw shenanigans like those!

    • Eric_G
      March 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm

      Oh, and as for jury selection: The questions were more along the lines of “Where do you work?” “Do you know so-and-so?” “Do you have reliable transportation?” No one asks specifically what your IQ is, or any personal questions other that acquaintances. There was one guy who I guess had trouble with the sheriff’s department in the past and flat out told the judge he wouldn’t be fit because of that and he got out. I wish I had thought of that!

    • spiritsplice
      March 24, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      See, all these asinine laws are a part of the problem. 5 different kinds of assault? If a law is written in language that needs to be interpreted or explained by a priest, it is void, end of story. Assault *and* battery?! Battery is obvious, you hit someone, but wait, that is what assault means as well. Wait, you can assualt someone without touching them?! I feel a rant coming. Time to sign out.

      • March 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm

        It’s a good point, I agree –

        But then, what would all the lawyers do for money?

        • Douglas
          March 27, 2012 at 3:56 am

          (What would lawyers do for money?)
          Produce something useful…wait, that’d be entirely out of character…

      • Mike in Spotsy
        March 25, 2012 at 4:00 am

        The distinction between assault and battery is centuries old in English common law. Assault is the attempt to hit someone…taking a swing at him. Battery is connecting with that swing.

      • Don
        March 26, 2012 at 4:11 pm

        That’s the same argument I make regarding the constitution when people say it’s a “living” document open to interpretation. If it’s open to interpretation then it’s meaningless.

        • Tinsley Grey Sammons
          April 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm

          Focus on the Unanimous Declaration. No power that contravenes the Principles underpinning that incomparable work has Lawful Authority.

          Keep in mind that lawful and legal are not synonyms. There is an ethical element in lawful that is dangerously absent in legal. For a thing to be lawful it must not offend a healthy Conscience.

          Were I a juror I would not even vote to convict a heroin dealer.

          Why?

          Research Fruit of the Poisonous Tree. You will find the answer there.

          WE hold these Truths…

          Google: Tinsley Grey Sammons

    • March 26, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      If you are accepting definitions from the judge then, I’m sorry to say, you have little understanding of the law of this nation.
      The law is as we understand it, not what is interpreted for us by a member of a fraternity who has a stake in our abdication of rights.
      Robert Yates warned in his writing as an Anti-Federalist that the judiciary would abuse its position in order to centralize power.
      John Adams stated about the Juror that, “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”
      SCOTUS has also stated as much, and we operated under that rule until we fell asleep, and allowed the government to undermine our rights.

  5. Chris
    March 24, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Why is it “assault” if you just punch someone in the face, especially if they have it coming?

    “Assault” is when you beat someone half to death without provocation, not when you deck some guy for saying something lewd to your wife in a restaurant.

  6. March 26, 2012 at 8:24 am

    As far as the traffic ticket situation goes, a black day in the history of freedom occurred in 1975, when the Legislature of California invented the “infraction,” as a dodge to get around the constitutional requirement of the sixth and seventh amendments requiring that “…where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved….” Prior to that, you COULD demand a jury trial for any excessive fine amount in a traffic case (this will also tell you why nearly every traffic fine up until 1975 was at or below $20).

  7. RobM
    March 26, 2012 at 11:45 am

    This is a well written article by Eric. He distinguishes between “Peers” which in the classical British sense meant a fellowship of elite class people to the newer sense 1700 sense of people in your community. He also draws the difference between Laws, Statutes, Ordinances, and Regulations. Statutes are supposedly crimes that are mala prohibitum and mal en se. the big difference today in today;s courtroom is that common, equity and admiralty and law has been rolled up into one system where it’s a “guilty just pay the fine” system. Sheeple eyes glaze over because they would rather have root canal than pick up a book about law.

    • March 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks, Rob – and, good to have you with us!

  8. Don
    March 26, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    “Johnson is an excellent driver. Hasn’t had an accident in decades; everyone who’s been in a car with him knows he can handle a machine. One day, an out-of-town trooper nails him for “reckless driving” because he exceeded a statutory maximum. No one was harmed – and no claim has been made that any actual harm was threatened – other than the asserted (and extremely dubious) argument that driving faster than “x” arbitrarily selected speed is “reckless” by definition. Johnson points out he was in full control of his vehicle; that the day was clear; that all he did was get caught driving faster than an arbitrarily set number – and that what he did, while perhaps a violation of the speed limit, certainly wasn’t “reckless” by any reasonable standard.”

    Now THAT sounds vaguely familiar! LOL. Too funny b/c that’s EXACTLY the argument I made in district court but the yuppie, “I want to be a big fish in a small pond” prosecutor kept objecting and the judge kept sustaining. I was railroaded from start to finish.

    I’ve been arguing this for years, and it is the justification for local justice not federal or state justice. The whole concept of a “jury of my peers” is absurd.

    • freedserf
      April 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm

      Subpoena the state/county records/studies that conclude that the road is unsafe when a certain speed is exceeded. Often times the speed limit is arbitrarily set by the department engineers. File more relevant subpoenas and continuances and be a general pain in the ass.

  9. Stephen Wells
    March 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    The comments are as good as the article! Thanks for all the good write Eric.
    My life situation 55 years in brief, not! My hope is in my maker. 33 years manufacturing _retail sales at same company same location little pay. I was an innovator used by many other companies with no pay. What I learned and skills gained I’m happy_time well spent. Now homeless via courts. Sued by chase bank and MetLife _FNMA. I was robbed by bankgov. On one suit the hearing before the judge and attorney

  10. March 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Apart from the discussion this topic provokes, I quite enjoyed the presentation of the salient concepts in the article itself.

    I’ve written plenty on my detestation of the foul forced public indoctrination system so many kids are subjected to, and one of its worst qualities is discouraging any understanding of subtlety along with critical thinking in general, as well as training kids to basically have a panic reaction any time they encounter an idea that *doesn’t* deify the State.

    This piece is an example of what most young people AREN’T being taught…but should be.

    Thank you, Eric.

  11. Stephen Wells
    March 26, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Oops, continued from last post. The judge required plaintiff (attorney ) to present the note. About a year later another hearing for same suit at same court but different judge and attorney both said they didn’t know what other judge wanted. Case closed I loose. The other case equally interesting.
    I now study code, the statutes they’re derived from and all the why’s and wherefores plus history _1880’s law books etc. Those, like me, who represent themselves and seek out what goes on and why are wise and will be rewarded. Fools let others represent them to their own eventual demise, and others. Again I plea learn _study this business misscalled law. Antique stores, libraries and the internet are full of resources. God’s speed.

    • April 21, 2012 at 8:06 am

      Mitch & Lisa;One comment- On your entry about the jury’s “only ptroopunity” to render a verdict, I have found that all too often a lawyer’s closing will make that observation about their verdict being the “only ptroopunity” to provide justice to the plaintiff, but neglect to either (a) provide the jury with some assessment of the “value” of the case and/or (b) fail to proper support that stated “value.” I’ve seen it on both the defense and plaintiff’s side where the summation will simply ask a jury to do “what’s fair”. The problem arises with that is that you will have at least 14 different versions (from each of 12 jurors, you and your client) of what exactly is “fair.” I think it is better to state specifically what is just/proper/fair, and why. The “why” portion is particularly important when supported by expert or other evidence that is highlighted in closing, since it then looks like it is not your opinion, but rather an objective conclusion based on the evidence (which we all know is the province of the jury to consider).

  12. Graham Dugas
    March 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Get on the jury at all costs.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig10/dugas1.html

  13. ChrisB
    March 26, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I did a toastmasters speech on jury nullification not too long ago, and this was the theme of my presentation:
    Lie!
    Lie to the lawyers who ask you nosy rude questions to screen out the smart jurors. You have no obligation to them, you are possibly the last chance for an unjustly accused person to escape the system. Lie to the judge who asks you if you will find your verdict according to the law as he or she spells out. “Yes your honour, I will judge this case according to the law as you have instructed.” It’s your decision not the judges, and you have to live with yourself afterwords.
    I gave the example of a juror in Colorado, can’t remember the name right this second, who was jailed by a judge because she (I think it was a she) lied to get on the jury. She was freed on appeal. The point of my presentation to the audience was that the jury system is part of the law system, and when you are on the jury, you, and the other jurors, ARE the law. Like the one poster said, butt out Mr. Judge sir, we were brought here (by threat of deadly violence by the way) to make a decision, and that’s what we’re going to do. The ability of jurors to make their own decisions regardless of what the judge wants goes at least back to the trial of William Penn in England. The judge sent the jurors to jail three times and all three times they came back with the verdict the judge had instructed them not to give!

    • BrentP
      March 26, 2012 at 10:55 pm

      Few people are going to be willing to do jail time and face charges and a trial that drags on for months. It doesn’t matter if someone is ultimately acquitted, it is the fact few people can afford the process.

      I would rather they found themselves unable to seat a jury due to a large population of informed people. Because all they are going to do otherwise is charge the person who got himself seated and re-try the defendant. It’s not like they are using their own money. There’s a reason that people have been arrested for informing people about the power of juries.

      BTW The case you are referring to is the Laura Kriho case.

    • Mike in Spotsy
      March 27, 2012 at 2:22 am

      I don’t have to lie. When they hear that I was once a trial lawyer, neither side wants me. They know that I will see through their tricks. lmao

      In the highly unlikely event that I ever did get on a jury, I would go with my own conscience, not with what the judge’s instructions said to do. That means, for example, in a criminal case I would vote not guilty if the prosecution’s case rested in any way on the testimony of the police. The cops always lie. I have had 2 officers admit that to me privately. I also saw many instances of it while practicing law, and in a few cases managed to obtain acquitals by convincing the court that the cops were lying. But in the vast majority of cases, they get away with it. As a juror, I would not let them.

  14. Frank
    March 26, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Another issue you may appreciate is the issue of jury nullification. It is a right that has been upheld by the supreme court except a jury is NEVER instructed on this right. In fact they are told they MUST follow the law, when in fact they can base their decision on ANYTHING. It is an important check against the government and the legislature against being convicted by foolish laws that make no sense. Instead, the jury follows the law blindly even if it makes no sense

  15. charlie
    March 26, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Always choose to have a jury trial. With that said I think juries are generally stacked with government workers obtained from the court house hallways who will usually produce a guilty verdict knowing the fines from such verdicts keep their “non”jobs safe.
    I believe fighting for freedom starts in the jury room – it is the ONLY place where one person has any power. Remember if there is no actual victim (not a possible victim) there is no crime. Also remember do not say you are giving a not guilty verdict because you do not agree with the law. You will be thrown off the jury, and possibly found in contempt of court, if you do so. Say you do not believe the officer’s testimony is believable, or that you didn’t feel there was enough evidence to convict, or something along those lines.

  16. Tor Munkov
    March 27, 2012 at 12:32 am

    The jury pool for a Walmart shoplifting case.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghrDIQ-K8mg

  17. March 27, 2012 at 1:11 am

    After having read the article, and the comments I can understand why we’ve reached this point.
    Our system of law is based on harm. Simply put, no harm, no foul. I think that there might be a misunderstanding as to the duty of a petit jury, and a grand jury. It is the grand jury that gathers the evidence and decides that there has indeed been a cause of action. In other words there is substantial evidence that there was a harm caused, and that harm must have a remedy. The petit jury then decides that the facts complete the case, and a verdict can be rendered based on common law.
    Any law that the government enacts that does not find its origin in an enumerated power is null and void and all petit jury’s should acquit no matter what the evidence. Laws against robbery, murder, theft are simply redundency designed to attribute a power to the government that was never granted. This is why we had grand jury’s originated by the people themselves.
    Under these conditions the drivers of vehicles can not be brought into a court if no injury took place, and they certainly wouldn’t be before a petit jury, nor a judge who originally had no authority to hear such a matter.
    The entire system was re-designed in order to centralize power to the government. The idea that we have prosecutors who can control a grand jury is repugnant to our originating document, the Declaration of Independence.
    The Anti-Federalists were clear in their objections about these very issues.

    • methylamine
      March 28, 2012 at 2:40 am

      Well said and absolutely true; it is the people’s power to control the government, NOT the reverse.

      We “pull the trigger” with a grand jury; without that trigger pull, the government is not supposed to fire.

      What we practice today is a perversion, and tyranny.

  18. kenny
    March 27, 2012 at 3:45 am

    “By the people, for the people” You/we ARE the law. It’s not up to the interpretation of collectivist imperialists.

    If smoking pot is a victimless crime and an individual right, your duty is to return ‘Not guilty’.

    Yahoo! Will Griggs ‘The Cult of Sanctified Violence’

    Down with the state.

    • March 27, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      Another freedom fighter I’m fond of Kenny, good mention. We need people who calls ‘em like they sees ‘em like Eric, Will Grigg, Tom Woods, Tom DiLorenzo, and Becky Akers to name a few…this is no time for shrinking violets too timid to assertively state the facts.

      Down with the State, for sure!

  19. Ted
    March 27, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Someone already alluded to this, but I wanted to add that “Jury of one’s peers” originally meant “peers of the realm” and not ordinary citizens. Across the pond juries were knowledgeable in subjects relevant to the trial. The phrase “jury of one’s peers” isn’t in the Constitution as some people think.

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