From the August 2003 Idaho Observer:
Jury History Highlights
by Godfrey Lehman
June 22, 1633: Trial of Galileo Galilei by the Catholic church's court of inquisition, in the absence of a jury of his peers, for the crime of insisting that the earth revolved around the sun.
September 5, 1670: Acquittal of William Penn and William Mead by a jury lead by Eduard Bushell. Penn was accused of preaching Quaker religion, with Mead assisting, in violation of English law that held the Church of England as the only legal religion. Bushell and three other members of the jury were imprisoned for refusing to pay fines.
November 9, 1670: The release of Edward Bushell and three other jurors from prison upon a writ of habeas corpus established the right of jurors to vote according to conscience.
June 29, 1691: Jurors in Salem acquit Rebecca Nurse of witchcraft; the judge terrorized jurors until they impeached their own verdict and the trial continued. Prosecutions soon stopped, in part because juries were reluctant to convict.
January 3, 1693: Trial of Rebecca Jacobs, acquitted on charges of witchcraft, in the beginning of the end of the Salem witch trials. A series of fifty-two acquittals followed.
May 17, 1693: End of the Salem witch trials, due to juries refusing to convict.
August 4, 1735: John Peter Zenger acquitted of publishing materials critical of the corrupt government of the royal governor of New York colony. The judge told the jury that truth was no defense, but the jury took only ten minutes to acquit.
December 6, 1763: Held without food, water, light or plumbing in a unheated room, a jury acquitted John Wilkes on charges of publishing criticisms of George III's government. The jurors recognized evidence was seized without a warrant.
July 4, 1776: Declaration of Independence signed: .for depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury; for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses.
December 15, 1791: Ratification of our Bill of Rights, including the right to trial by jury.
March 18, 1800: Conviction by a carefully-screened jury of the publisher William Duane [Philadelphia Aurora, 1790-1798], earlier acquitted by a randomly chosen jury that nullified the oppressive Sedition Act of 1797.
January 11, 1830: A jury endured freezing temperatures in a dark room until early morning, trying to acquit publisher Richard Carlile of seditious libel charges. Rather than freeze, they acquiesced to the demands of the judge for a conviction.
June 17-18, 1873: Susan B. Anthony tried for the crime of voting, along with three men of the elections board, who allowed her and 15 other women to vote. The attempt of the jury to acquit was thwarted. Judge Ward Hunt declared her guilty because, I say there is no law allowing women to vote and the jury has no power to determine the law.
October 31, 1878: A jury of 12 Russian peasants acquitted Vera Zalsulich of shooting an official who ordered the flogging of prisoners of conscience. The Czar reacted by repealing his own statute that had established trial by jury.
December 5, 1933: Utah becomes the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th (Prohibition) Amendment. Jury refusal to convict people being prosecuted for alcohol-related charges is largely credited for ending the Prohibition era.
July 19, 1991: Jury acquittal of Franklin Sanders and 16 co-defendants of various IRS tax charges, in Memphis, Tenn., at the conclusion of a four-month multi-million dollar trial.
Jury, n. [Fr. Jure, sworn, L. juro, to swear.] A number of freeholders, selected in the manner prescribed by law, impaneled and sworn to inquire into and try any matter of fact, and to declare the truth of the evidence given them in the case. Grand juries consist of usually of 24 freeholders at least, and are summoned to try matters alleged in indictments. Pettit juries, consisting usually of 12 men, attend courts to try matters of fact in civil causes, and to decide both the Law and the fact in criminal prosecutions. The decision of a pettit jury is called verdict.
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Just avoidin' my job
While 17 million bureaucrats work 9-5 and suck as much overtime as possible just doin' their jobs, one of the great American past times is to be officially excused from jury duty. Why is that? Is it because people loathe sitting in judgment of their fellow man? Hardly -- that is another one of our favorite pastimes. Is it because people detest being given the power to determine the fate of another? No, people generally step all over themselves to be in control of other peoples' lives. Is it because modern American juries have been neutered by the attorneys and judges it isn't worth the loss in pay to sit on a jury? Bingo. Is it because modern American juries are coerced into believing they must convict their countrymen of absurd, make-believe, nonviolent crimes against the state? Right again. Americans grow up believing jury duty is a chore and that to be a juror is to merely rubberstamp the will of the state-sanctioned court. If Americans grew up knowing that, as a juror, they are more powerful than the president because their one vote can determine the outcome of a case, jury duty would be a popular civic function. Historically, juries have proven to be the best defense against tyranny because we can choose not to convict one another for the commission of whatever nonsensical crimes the state decides to arbitrarily enforce. It is only when juries stop convicting that the state will stop indicting. We must take it upon ourselves to educate our countrymen as to the awesome power and importance of the jury; we must stop convicting each other of all crimes except those which damage another's property or person. We must look forward to jury duty and do our job, which is to serve the interests of the community -- not the tyrannical aspirations of the state.
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