Protect Your People! Be an independent Juror!
If you are summoned to be on a jury, your instinct is probably to try and get out of it because you
do not want to be part of the legal system that inflicts harm on minority communities. That is exactly what the power structure wants you to do. Don’t waste a chance to make a difference!
Did you know.....
• You have the right to follow your conscience and vote to acquit the person on trial if you think the law is unjust or if convicting the person would be immoral;
• You do not have to follow the judge’s instructions if you believe doing so will lead to an unfair outcome; and
• Your oath as a juror does not prevent you from doing what you believe is right. Taking an oath does not compel you to act in a way that would violate your conscience. Juries Have the Power to Ignore the Law to Avoid Injustice When you agree to be a juror, you promise to have an open mind and consider the evidence as presented under the legal principles as explained by the judge. But that includes deciding that a conviction would be unfair under the circumstances of the case. Jury independence has a long history stretching back to medieval England.
• Juries refused to convict people for breaking the Fugitive Slave Act by helping slaves escape
• Juries refused to convict fellow workers for striking to achieve better working conditions
• Juries refused to convict their neighbors for selling alcohol during Prohibition
• Juries refused to convict Vietnam war protesters who helped others avoid the draft.
(c) National Council 2020. All rights reserved 1 PROTECT YOUR PEOPLE! BE AN INDEPENDENT JUROR
If Juries Refuse to Convict, Legislatures Repeal Unfair Laws
• If you refuse to convict someone under an unjust law, you are signaling that the law does not reflect the values of the community and must be changed. Your voice will be heard beyond the courtroom. If enough other jurors follow your example, prosecutors will stop enforcing the law completely.
The Courts Will Not Tell You that You Have the Right to Follow Your Conscience
• Rich corporations and people spend a lot of money to get the laws that benefit their interests. They do not want you to know you have the right to disregard them. Judges want to control their courtrooms and prosecutors want convictions. Accordingly, judges will never let defense attorneys tell juries they can do what they think is right.
• BUT no court has ever said that a jury can’t vote its conscience. The courts have only ruled that juries do not have to be told they have the right to ignore an unjust law. Courts want juries to ignore the law when it’s the right thing to do without knowing they have that power. That makes no sense. Learn about independent juries before you get called for jury duty so you understand your rights.
The National Council is reimagining our communities as places of economic and social justice. Join us in spreading the word about jury independence.
You can’t protect your people from an unjust convictions if you aren’t a juror. Embrace jury duty as a chance to have your neighbor’s back.