Fully Informed Jury

I was in Top Dog the other day, waiting for my dog and purusing the social comentary on the walls (looking for something I hadn’t seen before) when a leaflet I had seen before (but never read) caught my eye: “A Primer For Prospective Jurors“. My recently recieved jury duty summons is probably what motivated me to read it while I ate — and I found it fairly interesting…

Once on a jury, must I use the law as given by the judge, even if I think it’s a bad law, or wrongly applied?
No. You are free to vote on the verdict according to your conscience. You may not increase the charges, but you may choose to vote to acquit, even when the evidence proves that the defendant “did it”, if your conscience so dictates. And if you think the charges are too high, you can ask the judge to tell you about any reduced charges of which you might, in good conscience, be willing to find the defendant guilty. The same options apply if you learn that the evidence, though true, was gathered in a way that violated the rights of the accused, or if you believe that the government is just trying to flex its muscle by making an example out of the defendant or feel that you were not allowed access to some of the facts of the case, or that victimless crimes should not be punished-or for any other reason you believe that justice will not be served by finding the defendant guilty or liable as charged. You have the power to render a conscientious verdict.

This power to “do the right thing” and bring in a conscientious verdict, even when the defendant is — by the letter of the law — guilty or liable, is the very backbone of our jury system.

It lead me to the “The American Jury Institute and Fully Informed Jury Association” website(s), which then lead me to another interesting read: Jurors’ Handbook: A Citizens Guide to Jury Duty.

All of which makes me a little sad that I allready check the “I am exempt because my obligation was satisified in the last 12 months” box on my summons.

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