|Quotes on the Powers and Duties of Jurors|
|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.
.....it is usual for the jurors to decide the fact, and to refer the
law arising on it to the decision of the judges. But this division of the
subject lies with their discretion only. And if the question relate to any
point of public liberty, or if it be one of those in which the judges may
be suspected of bias, the jury undertake to decide both law and fact.
Another apprehension [about the French Revolution] is, that a majority
cannot be induced to adopt the trial by jury; and I consider that as the
only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to
the principles of its constitution....
It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the
other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still
both objects are within your power of decision.....you have a right to
take it upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well
as the fact in controversy.
Jurors should acquit, even against the judge's instruction...if
exercising their judgement with discretion and honesty they have a clear
conviction that the charge of the court is wrong.
Petty juries, consisting usually of twelve men, attend courts to
try matters of fact in civil causes, and to decide both the law and the
fact in criminal prosecutions. The decision of a petty jury is called a verdict.
In the trial of all criminal cases, the Jury shall be the Judges of
Law, as well as of fact, except that the Court may pass upon the
sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a conviction
In all criminal cases whatsoever, the jury shall have the right to
determine the law and the facts.
The question here arises, Whether the barons and the people intended
that those peers (the jury) should be mere puppets in the hands of the
king, exercising no opinion of their own as to the intrinsic merits of the
accusations they should try, or the justice of the laws they should
be called on to enforce? Whether those haughty and victorious barons, when
they had their tyrant king at their feet, gave back to him his throne,
with full power to enact any tyrannical laws he might please, reserving
only to a jury...the contemptible and servile privilege of ascertaining,
(under the dictation of the king, or his judges, as to the laws of
evidence), the simple fact whether those laws had been
transgressed? Was this the only restraint, which, when they had all power
in their hands, they placed upon the tyranny of a king, whose oppressions
they had risen in arms to resist? Was it to obtain such a charter as that,
that the whole nation had united, as it were, like one man, against their
king? Was it on such a charter that they intended to rely, for all future
time, for the security of their liberties? No. They were engaged in no
such senseless work as that. On the contrary, when they required him to
renounce forever the power to punish any freeman, unless by the consent of
his peers, they intended those peers should judge of, and try, the whole
case on its merits, independently of all arbitrary legislation, or
judicial authority, on the part of the king. In this way they took the
liberties of each individual--and thus the liberties of the whole
people--entirely out of the hands of the king, and out of the power of his
laws, and placed them in the keeping of the people themselves. And this it
was that made the trial by jury the palladium of their liberties.
It is universally conceded that a verdict of acquittal, although
rendered against the instructions of the judge, is final, and cannot be
set aside; and consequently that the jury have the legal power to decide
for themselves the law involved in the general issues of guilty or not
The jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both the law
and the facts.
If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power
of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given
by a judge, and contrary to the evidence...If the jury feels that the law
under which the defendant is accused is unjust, or that exigent
circumstances justified the actions of the accused, or for any reason
which appeals to their logic or passion, the jury has the power to acquit,
and the courts must abide by that decision.
[The jury has an] unreviewable and irreversible power...to acquit in
disregard of the instructions on the law given by the trial judge...The
pages of history shine on instances of the jury's exercise of its
prerogative to disregard uncontradicted evidence and instructions of the
judge; for example, acquittals under the fugitive slave law.
Copyright Family Guardian Fellowship
|Last revision: August 14, 2009 08:07 AM|
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