Monday’s Fully Informed Jury Association event for the Campaign for Liberty — Tarrant County went beyond expectation. We passed out close to 400 trifolds, had some good conversations and met a total apologist for government aggression and discrimination.
So here is the background. Tom and Rafael joined Katy and me downtown at the Tarrant County Justice Center on Monday morning. I had never seen such a large jury pool. The line stretched into the street. We were not approached by any law enforcement, and everything was going as expected. Although, one uniformed officer asked what we were doing while waiting for the signal to say walk. I asked if he would like to know about the rights of jurors. He said he already knew about them.
Well, about the time we were passing out our last few trifolds, around 7:50 a.m., another group of people walking toward the Justice Center found their way to our intersection. They appeared to be led by this woman with an official-looking placard around her neck. In the video, she identified herself to be a licenced attorney. She was instructing the group of people with her about the location of restaurants in the neighborhood.
At first, the lady said she did not want any literature. However, once people around her started reading our paperwork, she asked for a copy. Tom said something about judges not informing jurors of their rights to examine the law, and the lady butted in and said that that was illegal for jurors to do.
By that time, I got my camera and asked if she would talk about it. That is when the video started rolling.
Tom then asked her a hypothetical about the obsolete three-fifths clause in the constitution which counted blacks as just a fraction of their actual population for congressional representation. In the clip, she admits she would be willing to enforce racial discrimination laws, among other laws. Tom then turned in disgust to her answer. What you don’t see in the video is that she quickly yanked on his elbow to get his attention. It was not a rough yank, but it was something that would have gotten some fierce retaliation had we done that to a government employee.
She suggest that we try to change the law through the legislative process rather than practicing jury nullification. She did acknowledge she does not like many of the laws either.
I asked her to respond to Martin Luther King’s line that “An unjust law is no law at all.” She said, “Generally, yes, an unjust law is not law.” (So I don’t understand her reasoning about enforcing obviously discriminatory laws.)
Tom further asked, “What if I don’t agree with the law that Jews are no longer persons?” She said, “Then you don’t sit on a jury that is judging that question.” I cringed. I could not believe her response. She again insisted that we respect the rule of law and work within it to affect change. Rafael started to question her if the US PATRIOT Act was just, but she must have misunderstood him and said something about a trade law.
Tom then gave us some historical examples that we was talking about, but I had to cut him short because YouTube videos can only be so long.
As I have been informed, the Texas constitution does have some language somewhat favorable toward jury nullification. [Update: See Chris’s comment below for a more detailed explanation.] In the Texas Bill of Rights, it states that “in all indictments for libels, the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts, under the direction of the court, as in other cases” (emphasis added).This would seem to lend itself to support for the right of jurors to determine which laws they wish to have enforced in their communities.
What we plan to do is to prepare and practice delivering talking points about some common objections and questions we get during our outreach events. I think that may help overcome some common concerns and also encourage more people to attend the events.Image credit: Wolfgang Staudt, with Creative Commons license