Mary Lou Seymour

Can our justice system be saved?

Tue Jun 3 00:15:34 2003

Liberty Action of the Week: June 2,2003

Can our justice system be saved?
by Mary Lou Seymour

In last week's column, "Free Frank Cooper," I talked about how
Richland County, SC had used the Probate Court "protective
proceedings" statute to remove Frank Cooper from his property and
commit him to a mental hospital, instead of using the county building
permit ordinance to incarcerate him, and speculated that the county
chose that venue since with a probate proceeding he had no right to a
jury trial.

Of course, we all know that a jury trial today is a far cry from the
jury trial envisioned by our Founding Fathers. The jury was supposed
to be the "arm of the people," to ensure that the government did not
abuse its power to throw innocent citizens in jail, or take their

Our Founding Fathers accepted the common law principle of jury
nullification as an important safeguard for a free society -- a test
that laws must pass before gaining sufficient popular authority for
enforcement. Jury nullification has been used by jurors throughout
our history to "nullify" unpopular and unjust laws, from laws against
free speech to Prohibition. Jury nullification is an integral part of
our judicial system, serving as one of the "checks and balances"
required by a free society. The fact that it is unknown to most
jurors today has contributed greatly to the decline of our court
system into the "kangaroo courts" we see so often today.

A thought provoking article, "What kind of Americans sit on our
juries?" by John Silveira compares the experiment conducted at Yale
in the 1960's which gauged the willingness of particpants to inflict
pain in order to "please authority" with a modern jury room in which
the jurors are asked the now routine question, if they are willing to
bring a verdict of guilty, if the prosecutor proves his case, even if
they, the jurors, disagree with the law. If the percentage in the
Yale study held true, "fully 60 percent of the population would bring
a verdict of guilty even if they felt the law was wrong -- or evil.
Since it only takes one dissenting juror to hang a jury, the
likelihood of a guilty verdict being administered for violation of a
bad law should be negligible."

However, most jurors simply DO NOT KNOW they have the "right" ....
no, the duty ... to "vote their conscience." And that's where we come

This Wednesday, June 4, 2003, Ed Rosenthal is scheduled to be
sentenced for growing medical marijuana in California. As you may
recall, back in February after Rosenthal was convicted, nine of the
Rosenthal jurors publicly protested the verdict, going on Dateline,
CNN, and other media stating they would never have convicted if they
had known this was a medical case. In other words, if those jurors
had known about "jury nullification," Rosenthal would not be facing a
minimum of ten years in prison. And some of those same jurors who in
February convicted Rosenthal are now "devoting about as much time and
effort to the case now as they did during the trial. They're
campaigning for a 'Truth in Trials' law which would change how juries
in drug cases operate." ("The jury never rests")

In my column, "War on drugs and the jury box" (02/11/03), I urged you
to to combine the "prohibition doesn't work" meme and the "jury
nullification" meme and do our part in fighting against the War on
Drugs and for fully informed juries. There was a lot of media
coverage in February, which died out when Bush's War of Aggression in
Iraq took center stage.

This is an excellent opportunity to once again spread the jury
nullification meme. Americans for Safe Access is promoting June 4 as
a National Day of Action for jury rights and medical marijuana. If
you live near San Francisco or Washington DC, you can join in one of
the rallies, or, you can join in leafletting outside of members'
district offices members who haven't co-sponsored the Truth in Trials
Act (which would end the federal government's gag on medical
marijuana defendants in court.) And, of course, LTEs or call ins to
radio shows highlighting the Rosenthal sentencing and why we need
fully informed juries are an integral part of any outreach efforts.

Americans for Safe Access and FIJA (Fully Informed Jury Association)
have numerous resources available for your outreach activities, from
draft LTEs (and here)to bullet points for discussion to flyers and
posters. For more info on jury nullification, see the ISIL "History
of jury Nullification,", and Freedom Law's Jury Nullification page.

But let's say we and other activists ARE successful in spreading the
jury nullification meme and returning the role of our juries to the
"protection from tyranny" envisioned in our Constitution. We'll be
home free, right?

Well, there's another giant problem with out court system. Corruption
and judicial misconduct. And, as you'd expect in our
current "injustice system," the foxes are guarding the henouse. Just
over 20 years ago congress established through legislation a
procedure to make misconduct allegations against Federal Judges. 28
U.S.C 372(c). Unfortunately,the evaluation of alleged judicial
misconduct is done by the Judicial Council of the very same circuit
as the judge who is the subject of the complaint works in. Joseph S.
Norman II has mounted a campaign for independent review of Federal
Judicial misconduct allegations. Sign the online petition at his
site, Stop Bad Justice, which would require a grand jury or
independent authority, which is not connected with the judicial
branch of the government, to review judicial misconduct in a
public forum and the results made a public record.

For this week's action, let us do what we can to "save our justice
system" by bringing the jury nullification meme into public
consciousness again, and by working for independent review of Federal
judicial misconduct.

Oh, and back to Frank Cooper for a moment, because that is an example
of the most horrible kind of the state using its power to bypass even
the tattered remnants of the jutice system that still remain
available to us. Please, if you didn't have a chance to take action
last week, take a moment or two this week to write the jack booted
thugs in Richland County SC. I have set up a blog to report on
actions you and others take to bring this situation to light, so drop
on by and see what others have done. (The exchange between "Sui
Juris" and the Richland County Sheriff is particularly telling.)

Til next week

For freedom

Mary Lou

PS: This just in, too late to do a column this week, but check out
this story about the Ferals trying to evict "in-holders," people who
own land inside national parks. The Pilgrim family owns 400 acres
inside a National Park, the Feds are trying to cut off the state road
access ... the May-June issue of the Wrangell-St. Elias news gives a
lot of info on the situation, including contact info for who to write.

PPS: Last week I mentioned a new activist resource I am working on
with the folks at Rational Review! Well, it's not QUITE ready for
prime time yet, but stay tuned, I'm keeping my fingers crossed it'll
be online next week!

PPPS: Don't forget to check out this week's alternate actions: Stop
Human Rights Abuses in Thailand,Oppose the CLEAN-UP Act, and Support
The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003 at the
webpage for this column.


Free Frank Cooper

What kind of Americans sit on our juries?

The jury never rests  

War on drugs and the jury box

News reports/articles on Rosenthal Trial

Support the Truth in Trials Act

June 4 National Day of Action

PROTEST IN SAN FRANCISCO: Join us for a rally and street theatre at
the SF Federal Courthouse starting at 8:00am on the Turk St side of
the SF Federal Building (Larkin & Turk).
Wednesday, June 4, 2003; 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM
E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse at 333 Constitution Ave. NW
EDUCATE THE JURY POOL: Do a banner action outside your local federal
courthouse while jurors are coming in. Suggested message:
"Jurors: Acquit in All Pot Cases - It Could Be Medical -"
CHALLENGE YOUR CONGRESS MEMBER: leafletting outside of members'
district offices members who haven't co-sponsored the Truth in Trials

Guide to being a real juror

Points for LTEs on Rosenthal case & medical marijuana


History of Jury Nullification (ISIL):

Freedom Law: Jury Rights

FIJA Jury Power flyers

Support independent review of Federal Judicial misconduct allegations

Liberty Activist Blog

Feds trying to evict the Pilgrim Family

Alternate Actions for this week

Liberty Action of the Week is edited by Mary Lou Seymour.
Visit us on the web at

Main Page - Monday, 06/02/03

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