Jurors should acquit, even against the judge's instructions ... if exercising their judgment with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction the charge of the court is wrong."-- Alexander Hamilton. 1804
A Citizens' Guide to Jury Duty
Jurors have the power
The trial jury protected under our Constitution is a judicial body with more power than Congress, the President, even the Supreme Court. Judges say the "issue of law" is for them to determine, and instruct the jury to rule only on the fact of whether or not a defendant broke the law. American juries have a proud tradition of standing up and saying "no" to oppressive, unjust laws. In our system of checks and balances, the jury is the conscious of the community and the final arbiter for justice.
Jurors can question the law
In an American courtroom there are in a sense twelve judges in attendance, not just one. As the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules, "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 of passion, the jury has the power to acquit, and the courts must abide by that decision." US vs. Moylan, 417 F 2nd 1002, 1006 (1969).
Jurors can use discretion
Just as police use discretion on whether to enforce the law; and prosecutors use discretion when charging someone with a violation of the law; and judges use discretion in deciding whether to dismiss those charges; jurors also have the power to use discretion in applying the law.
Know your rights as a juror
You must know your rights because, once selected for jury duty, nobody will inform you of your power to judge both law and fact. The judge's instructions to the jury may even be to the contrary. YOU, as a juror armed with the knowledge of your real rights, powers, and duties, can with our single vote of not guilty "hang" a jury. Although it won't be as an acquittal, at least the defendant will not be convicted of violating and unjust or unconstitutional law. This is how the average citizen can help keep in check the power of government and bring to a halt the enforcement of faulty acts of legislature.