Informed Juries

(Note from Gary: I consider fully informed juries to be the last peaceable barrier between innocent gun owners and a tyrannous government – incredibly important to a non-violent preservation of our liberty. Please take time to learn about your power as a juror.)

Click here for a good article about fully informed juries by Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute.

About fully informed jurors, from the Fully Informed Jury Association.

The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) is a non-profit educational association whose primary mission is to inform all Americans about their right, power and responsibility to judge the law itself, as well as the factual evidence, when serving as criminal trial jurors.

Why do we think this is so important? Because today’s courts falsely instruct jurors that they must accept the law as given by the judge, even if they disagree with it. If jurors don’t know any better, they will accept this instruction, and find people guilty even when they believe the law itself is wrong. This makes trial by jury into trial by government–the essential ingredient of a police state.

One result is that a lot of harmless people end up in jail: over half of the people in jail today are imprisoned for victimless (i.e., political) crimes. It also produces disrespect for the justice system, especially when trial jurors later discover, after finding someone guilty who they really believe did not commit a crime, that they could have based their verdict upon their conscience, instead of blindly applying a bad law.

In other words, had they only known about their power, they could have brought in a verdict they could be proud of. A jury’s refusal to apply a bad law, to acquit even when the state’s evidence against the accused person is clear, is known as “jury nullification”, and it’s a time-honored legal doctrine in our system of justice.

But there’s an even more important reason than providing justice for the accused that we at FIJA feel compelled to inform all Americans about their power to judge both law and fact when serving on a jury: when jury after jury decides to acquit defendants accused of breaking a particular law, no matter how compelling the evidence, it sends a strong message to the lawmakers that the law needs to be repealed, or at least changed until it meets with the approval of the people.

The message is very likely to be taken seriously, because it expresses the true will of the people–not the will of special-interest lobbyists, especially lobbyists for the government. Since the lawmakers depend upon pleasing a majority of the voters in order to stay in office, jury verdicts which deliver true public opinion on a given law can be very impressive.

In fact, the messages sent by juries, when they regularly acquit people charged with breaking an unpopular law, are probably the most effective form of feedback to the lawmakers from the people. Those messages therefore serve as a final “check and balance” upon the government, a vital link in the democratic process, in a country supposedly dedicated to control of government by the people.

In summary, then, FIJA seeks [1] to ensure that every accused person receives a truly fair trial, in which the conscience of the community, represented by jurors randomly selected from that community, are brought to bear in deciding his/her guilt or innocence; and [2] to restore the political function of the criminal trial jury as a final check and balance upon the government–as intended by America’s founders.

FIJA also has other, related goals, such as ensuring that everyone charged with a crime is able to have his case heard by a jury, making sure that those selected for jury service represent the broadest possible sampling of the community, and keeping jury size as large as possible.

FIJA is supported by tax-deductible contributions from individuals, donations from groups whose goals would be advanced if the jury system were working properly, and by foundation grants. You are encouraged to help us reach our objectives by becoming a “Friend of FIJA”.

Mailing address:
P.O. Box 59,
Helmville, MT 59843
Phone/Fax (406) 793-5550.