I've been called up for jury duty about 6 times in my life, twice I called in and never had to report, once I had to report for a town trial, but it was dismissed before the jury was drawn, and 3 times I have actually served on a jury. I served on a 6-person jury over a civil litigation, I served on a state court grand jury and I served on a 12-person criminal trial jury. Ironically, on all three occasions I served I was also selected jury foreman.
My daughter has never been called for jury duty - my wife only once. Go figure - why do I get called so often? I never win any other lotteries.
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A Jury's Secret Power - Nullification
New York -- With Jury Rights Day just around the corner on September 5, it is a good time to reflect upon a Jury's Duty.
Our Founding Fathers, in all their wisdom, gave us a Constitution with layers of safeguards, so that if we erred, we could correct the error, peaceably - without a shot being fired.
One of these very important layers is Jury Nullification. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were very strong advocates of Jury Nullification.
- "It is not only [the juror's] 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." (John Adams, America's second President; 1771)
- "It would be an absurdity for jurors to be required to accept the judge's view of the law, against their own opinion, judgment, and conscience." (John Adams)
- "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet devised by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Thomas Paine; 1789)
- "The juries [are] our judges of all fact, and of law when they choose it." (Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval; 1816. ME 15:35)
- Even the First Chief Justice of the U.S. John Jay, in 1789, chimed in on this issue with, "The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy."
- Lastly, and most succinctly, Alexander Hamilton, in 1804, said that, "Jurors should acquit, even against the judge's instruction… if exercising their judgment with discretion and honesty, they have a clear conviction the charge of the court is wrong."