Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”     Thomas Sowell

April 5, 2013

Quote of the Day: Teach the Children Well Edition

by Stephen Littau

J.D. Tuccillle over at Reason has an excellent article entitled: “Why I’m Teaching My Son To Break the Law.” Tuccille explains that when the law runs contrary to one’s conscience, s/he should disobey said law (the primary example used in the article was when in 1858 residents in Oberlin and Wellington, Ohio prevented the police from enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act).

Personally, I would say that I love liberty more than any other value, and I don’t give a damn if my neighbors or the state disagree. I will be free, and I’m willing to help others be free, if they want my assistance. Screw any laws to the contrary. […]

[…]

I sincerely hope that my son never has to run for his freedom in defiance of evil laws, like John Price. I also hope, at least a little, that he never has to beat the stuffing out of police officers, as did the residents of Oberlin and Wellington, to defend the freedom of another. But, if he does, I want him to do so without reservations.

If all my son does is live his life a little freer than the law allows, then we’ve done some good. A few regulations ignored and some paperwork tossed in the garbage can make the world a much easier place in which to live. Better yet, if he sits on a jury or two and stubbornly refuses to find any reason why he should convict some poor mark who was hauled in for owning a forbidden firearm or for ingesting the wrong chemicals. Jury nullification isn’t illegal (yet), but it helps others escape punishment for doing things that are, but ought not be. No harm, no foul is a good rule for a juror, no matter what lawmakers say.

There seems to be a number of unjust laws coming down the pike to pile on top of many other unjust laws. I think it’s time we each decide we will not obey these laws. To take this one step further, I also wholeheartedly agree with the legal theory of jury nullification. If you are selected to sit on a jury, you have the power to say “no” to bad laws.

This is what I try to teach my children anyway.

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2 Comments

  1. I, unfortunately, will never get the chance to protest an unjust law via jury nullification. I’m a pathologist, and attorneys on one side or the other almost always use one of their exclusion votes to keep physicians in general and pathologists in particular off the jury. If the case is weak, then the DA excludes the MD. If the accused is guilty, then the defense attorney excludes the MD.

    The above shenanigans is one reason why I abhor our justice system. I would greatly prefer permanent panels of professional jurors (with training in law and forensics) for all types of trials with specialists added for particular cases (such as accountants in an embezzlement case).

    Comment by MingoV — April 5, 2013 @ 1:35 pm
  2. MingoV, it really does seem like the criminal justice system favors the lowest common denominator doesn’t it? It seems like both the prosecutors and defense attorneys want jurors who can easily manipulated with appeals to emotion. The last thing either side wants IMO are jurors who can think logically about the facts of the case before them.

    That being said, I’m not sure I would want professional jurors. One reform I’ve thought some about is having one juror isolated from the deliberations who would independently arrive at a verdict. This would guard against group think that all too often happens. Perhaps one additional safeguard could be that the independent juror could be the expert in law in forensics (better yet, have at least one expert in the jury room and another outside). I think this would force the state to do a more thorough job in proving the case as the isolated juror could hang the verdict.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — April 8, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

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