Jury Law

A jury of twelve good men  and true has an important place in English and America too. We normally have twelve so that a man is tried by a Judge and Jury; One plus Twelve makes Thirteen which have  the number and form of a Coven. Ditto for the Last Supper. Coincidence or more? I know not. It is true none the less. It seems there are thirteen turns in a Hangman's Noose & that the Jury originates from Solon's Ten Commandments circa 594 BC.

A jury has certain virtues. One being that it is independent of the government in all of its three branches to wit the Legislature, Judiciary and Executive or in other words, law makers, judges and police. It is in a position to give a verdict of guilty or not as it sees fit and answers to no man save the Judge and that once only which is why juries are not loved by governments or their apparatchiks. It is also why we need them. The greater the hate, the greater the need.

Geoffrey Robertson QC explains Magna Carta And Jury Trial. Edward Cole in Jury Trials argues contra without convincing. Oliver Letwin is pro - We Must Fight For The Right To Trial By Jury Of Our Peers. The relevant Act is the Criminal Justice Act 2003 - the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill didn't make it.

It has been claimed that Prohibition in America, the outlawing of alcohol failed because juries would not convict - this is Jury Nullification. They were in a position to judge the facts and the law. When the law was found wanting the accused walked free. Bad law needs a good jury.

But things were not always thus. The time was when a judge could torture a jury that refused to give him the verdict that he demanded. William Penn was an Englishman and a Quaker who found this out the hard way. See Bushell's Case 1670 for more on that. England had Grand Juries; America still has them, a group of citizens whose business is to decide whether there is a case to answer, that is Probable Cause for action. We could do with them in England yet.

Bushell's Case 1670
....he was sent down from Christ Church, Oxford for being a Quaker, and was arrested several times. Among the most famous of these was the trial following his arrest with William Meade for preaching before a Quaker gathering. Penn pleaded for his right to see a copy of the charges laid against him and the laws he had supposedly broken, but the judge, the Lord Mayor of London, refused—even though this right was guaranteed by the law. Despite heavy pressure from the Lord Mayor to convict the men, the jury returned a verdict of "not guilty". The Lord Mayor then not only had Penn sent to jail again (on a charge of contempt of court), but also the full jury. The members of the jury, fighting their case from prison, managed to win the right for all English juries to be free from the control of judges and to judge not just the facts of the case, but the law itself [ see Bushell's Case 1670 ]. This case was one of the more important trials that shaped the future concept of American freedom (see jury nullification)....


Jury Nullification
Jury nullification occurs when a jury returns a verdict of "Not Guilty" despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged.  The jury in effect nullifies a law that it believes is either immoral or wrongly applied to the defendant whose fate that [ they ]  are charged with deciding.
A decent summary from someone in the business. English juries should know about this one and use it in bad cases.


Jury Nullification - A Barrister Writes
A barrister can't resist waffle but otherwise he is on the right lines.


Jury Nullification ex Wiki
Is the power of jury to disobey a judge's order to convict. It is one that fails to amuse judges and seems to happen mainly in America. It can render a law ineffective and did so with Prohibition in the 1930s. Judges do not tell juries that they have this power; one even lied on  the point and got away with it.


Jury Nullification II ex Wiki
Jury's right to stop the trial
Once all the prosecution evidence has been given, the jury may at any time, of its own motion, decide to acquit the defendant. Few juries will realise that they have this power unless advised by the judge. Such judicial intervention is deprecated by the Court of Appeal and, as of 2007, is rarely exercised.[42]
Juries are hated by The Establishment. This is one reason.


Bushell's Case 1670
231. Case of the Imprisonment of Edward Bushell,[1] for alleged Misconduct as a Juryman: 22 Charles II. A. D. 1670. [Vaughan's Reports, 135.][2]

THIS important Case, which arose out of the preceding, is thus reported by Chief Justice Vaughan:

The king's Writ of Habeas Corpus, dat. 9 die Novembris, 22 Car. 2. issued out of this court directed to the then Sheriffs of London, to have the body of Edward Bushell, by them detained in Prison, together with the day and cause of his caption and detention, on Friday then next following, before this court, to do and receive as the court should consider; as also to have then the said writ in court.

Of which Writ, Patient Ward and Dannet Foorth, then Sheriffs of London, made the return following, annexed to the said Writ.
This law report is a mixture of bad English, Latin and Norman-French but it got the main point right; putting jurymen in prison because the judge didn't like their verdict was not on.


A Verdict That Justifies Juries [ 1 May 2010 ]
This is a report of a Jury's decision. I have no comment on the case, other than to observe that it is a textbook example of why the jury system exists and should exist for the future.
A serving magistrate comments on a teacher who was prosecuted for trying to murder an exceptionally nasty pupil in a sincerely evil class.


Secrecy of Jury Proceedings
Four law lords said that what happens in a jury is secret. Grand Jury considerations in America are secret at the time. Presumably this is to prevent interference with a trial. There is little or nothing on the Internet regarding the issue.

Secrecy in a jury room
It would be "both inappropriate and undesirable" said Lord Slynn, "that there should be a public inquiry as to what happened in the jury room after the verdict has been given".
The Grauniad does not agree.

Jury Secrecy in Ireland
We also considered in the Consultation Paper whether it is desirable to seek to preserve secrecy for the deliberation process in which juries engage and, if so, whether that goal should be served by means of contempt proceedings. We pointed out that under the present law a juror may not give evidence in any proceedings – including an appeal from the jury's verdict – as to what took place in the jury room and why the jury came to its verdict and that only the most limited exceptions to this exclusionary rule are permitted.....  we concluded that it is beyond argument that there could be no absolute rule of secrecy.
This Irish paper reads much like an English offering. The subject seems to get little attention.


A Libertarian View Of Juries And Bad Government
Abstract: No one should ever be allowed to serve on a jury in England unless he can read and write English............

We know that the authorities hate the whole jury system. Its advantage is not that juries are inherently more suited to deciding guilt and innocence than a judge sitting alone. This being said, there are few cases of gross incompetence by juries, and juries never sit long enough to become as case hardened as judges and magistrates. The advantage is – and always has been – that, before they can hurt any one of us, the authorities need to find twelve other people like us to agree that we should be hurt. Throughout English history, the jury has been the one most effective shield that individuals have had against oppression by the State. From Bushell's Case (1670), to the trial of the Seven Bishops (1688), to the treason trials of 1793, to any number of malicious prosecutions in the twentieth century, it has been juries that have checked the authorities.

During my own lifetime, trial by jury has been systematically weakened. In the 1960s, juries were removed from most civil cases, and majority verdicts were introduced in criminal trials. In the 1980s, the right of peremptory challenge was taken away from defendants. In the present century, the rule against double jeopardy has been overturned – so that an acquittal by a jury can be overturned and a person tried again for the same offence. There has been, throughout this time, a slow transfer of crimes from juries to magistrates. Very recently, it has been made possible for any crime whatever to be tried by a judge sitting alone, if the authorities can “prove” that a jury might be intimidated by the friends of a defendant...........

Because trial by jury is so important, we denounce all efforts to destroy it. We certainly believe that no one should be allowed to serve on a jury in England unless he can be shown to be literate in English. We believe that every person summoned for jury service should be tested for his ability to read and write English to a reasonable level. It is another argument, but we will also mention our belief that every juryman should be told of his right to acquit in the face of the evidence if he regards any particular law as illegitimate.
Doctor Gabb gets it splendidly right just as Her Majesty's Government mounts a malicious prosecution against Englishmen because and only because the oik they are accused of killing was a black.


Errors & omissions, broken links, cock ups, over-emphasis, malice [ real or imaginary ] or whatever; if you find any I am open to comment.

Email me at Mike Emery. All financial contributions are cheerfully accepted. If you want to keep it private, use my PGP KeyHome Page

Updated  on  Tuesday, 15 December 2015 13:42:01