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News Ignore the judge!

  1. Oct 21, 2003 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    Some years ago I became aware of a movement to inform citizens that as a juror, and regarding one's vote in that capacity for guilt or innocence, one is not bound by some instructions that may be given by the presiding judge in that trial.

    Example: When the judge tells the jury to ignore certain testimony during their deliberations, they are not bound to do so. The juror is bound first and foremost to vote their conscience.

    What do you think? I tend to agree.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2003 #2
    I think this isn't worth sour owl poop...follow the money, chum!


    Well, follow the groups that support it, they are sort of 'fringe', even some of the ones I agree with....I'm doing some Google searches on it now.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 21, 2003
  4. Oct 21, 2003 #3


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    It goes beyond ignoring judges instructions. Some people advocate jury nullification. This is when a juror decides to ignore the evidence and the law, and declare the defendant innocent. It is most common in cases for which the punishment is (or seems) disproportionate to the crime. Jurors will vote to aquit on possesion of crack cocaine because of the long sentences. They will also vote to aquit defendants charged with a third felony in cases where that felony, which might be shoplifting, will result in life without parole.

    I'm of a mixed mind about this. I aknowledge there are terrible inequities in our judicial system. But when citizens start taking the law into their own hands one way, it won't be long before there is a reaction to it in the opposite extreme. Hopefully, it will remain rare, and alert the powers that be to problems with the system. If not, we will have jury nullifiers putting criminals on the street, and vigilantes killing them.

  5. Oct 21, 2003 #4
    And then the juries will free the vigilantes!
  6. Oct 21, 2003 #5
    I'm not saying it is a 100% bad idea...there are places where I think it should come into play, and I wish there was more power from the jury to decide sentencing.
  7. Oct 21, 2003 #6


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    Just to clarify a bit, a Jurist is bound by the instructions given by the presiding judge, and they are indeed bound to ignore certain testimony if they are told to by the judge. In reality, because of the balance that our legal systems attempts to achieve, the instructions of the Judge are in effect unenforcable.
    The movement that I am aware of is two fold. The 1st is to make Jurist aware that they do have the power to ignore their obligation and acquit if they view a law as unjust or unwieldy. The 2nd is to promote the passing of a nullification law that basicly provides for the court to declare this as a right to the jurist.
    I've seen this in relationship, primarily to marijauna legalisation movements.
  8. Oct 22, 2003 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    Re: Re: Ignore the judge!

    Which may well speak to the spirit of the law. This is what makes me think this is a legitimate interpretation.

    I also support this. I see this as a safety valve that gives the people the final say. Of course, in the opposite case, in the event of an unfair conviction the judge can throw it out.

    What I found most interesting was the claim that instructions to the jury by the judge have increased tremendously over the decades. The contention was that this undermines the design of the legal system.
  9. Oct 22, 2003 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    However, it may have been intended that "the law" rests in the hands of the citizens. Could this be why the judge has no means by which to enforce his instructions?

    Hmmm. In fact we have already seen some of this with "The Guardian Angels" and similar groups. At the same time, these vigilantes would then be known by another name: Criminals. If a jury of one's peers votes to acquit, then who do the vigilantes represent?

    Do you think this could be a safety valve to assure a government "by the people"? This really gives the citizen tremendous power.
  10. Oct 22, 2003 #9
    When was this created, and how long has it been in effect? This reminds me somewhat of the 2nd Amendment: reasonable when it was created, completely unsuited for the context of the modern era.
  11. Oct 22, 2003 #10


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    Well, I'm not sure what you mean, or exactly why you find it outdated or unsuited but it's been a part of our legal's system checks and balances for..well, the very beginning I believe. Thomas Jefferson speaks of it and believes it was perhaps one of the most important component of a democratic judicial system and "as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
    I would think, particularly with your view on the present government leaders that you would support the right of the jury to vote it's "conscience" as an important safeguard.
  12. Oct 22, 2003 #11


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    Can't help but share :wink: another famous Jefferson quote:
    "We all know that permanent judges acquire an esprit de corps; that, being known, they are liable to be tempted by bribery; that they are misled by favor, by relationship, by a spirit of party, by a devotion to the executive or legislative; that it is better to leave a cause to the decision of cross and pile than to that of a judge biased to one side; and that the opinion of twelve honest jurymen gives still a better hope of right than cross and pile does." --Thomas Jefferson to Abbe Arnoux, 1789. ME 7:423, Papers 15:283
  13. Oct 22, 2003 #12
    1789? That just illustrates my point. I'm not saying that jruy involvement in conviction and sentencing is a bad idea, I just think it needs to be codified to fit in with modern court procedures.
  14. Oct 22, 2003 #13
    Good point. For instance, our current Attourney General doesn't believe that judges can be trusted to give harsh enough sentences, and wants to take human judgment out of sentencing. I think that it is important to take all factors into consideration when deciding whether to convict, but I think a better way to deal with this is to allow some leeway in sentencing. That way, we can still maintain the rule of law, while giving people the jail time they actually deserve.

    I think this isn't a black/white issue, can you tell?
  15. Oct 22, 2003 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    In high school I had a Sociology teacher who was quite thought provoking. One day he read a letter to the class that discussed the ills of society. As best as I can recall [I recall the tone and jist but some minor details may be inaccurate] the letter described the break down in law in the inner city areas. Outrage was expressed at the recent child molestation problems apparently experienced in the neighborhood of the author. This particular person had hired someone to escort their children to school for fear of the worst. The letter continued: They had recently gone swimming at the public pool and their clothes were stolen. Young people are disrespectful and uncontrollable. You can’t trust the politicians, etc. etc. etc. You know the story; right? This was written by someone in Greece; c.a. 500 BC.

    There is nothing new under the sun.

    Most safeguards in the US Constitution ultimately address issues of human nature. These concerns are never out of date.
  16. Oct 22, 2003 #15


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    It was, quite literally.
  17. Oct 22, 2003 #16
    Well Zero – Congradulations on seeing both sides of an issue.

    But I can’t go without taking a swipe at you.

    I haven’t followed the issue closely, but if I recall, sentencing guidelines were imposed on judges who are legally required to abide by them. I believe the guidelines were initiated during the Clinton administration. I don’t recall if Clinton supported them or not. Apparently many judges were not adhering to them. Ashcroft simply instructed the the judges to follow the existing guidelines. My personal view is that guidelines should not be necessary and can be unfair, but as the the 1789 quote implies, we all are biased. So if Ashcroft instructed the judges to follow the guidelines that should have been followed anyway, why does that make him a bad guy. Is he not doing exactly what an Attourney General should do.
  18. Oct 23, 2003 #17
    I am pretty sure that Ashcroft is pushing for more restrictions, in fact I am positive he is. He may have taken heat for trying to enforce existing legal standards, but he is taking a lot of heat for proposing radical new restrictions. Most likely, both Zero and you are correct and your versions of policy are not at odds but rather refer to different cases.
  19. Oct 23, 2003 #18
    Is he doing the right thing? He isn't just pushing for guidelines to be followed, he is also suggesting that the maximum punishment be sought in all cases.
    And, of course, I can't imagine why it would matter if '3 strikes' and other ridiculous sentencing guidelines were enacted under Clinton or not...
  20. Oct 23, 2003 #19
    Rage- I’m sure the ”more and radical restrictions” you attribute to Ashcroft are regarding acts of terrorism, rather than what I’ll call normal criminal trials. Again these cannot be attributed to Ascroft, but to the Congress. I’m not aware of any changes sought by Ashcroft re: normal criminal sentencing guidelines, but only how they’re applied.

    I have no answer to how one fights terrorism in the short term. If I were in a position of authority, and an explosion occurred in Londonderry, I’d probably look for the nearest Irish catholic. If a bomb wiped out a Mosque in Pakistan, I’d probably look for the nearest Hindu. If a bomb exploded in Moscow, I’d look for the nearest citizen of Chechnya. In the US, I’d look for the nearest Muslim.

    Is it unfair? Yes. Is it contrary to the US Constitution? Absolutely! That is the enigma we are confronted with today. As a conservative, I am against enacting any law that would legalize such activity by enforcers. I don’t believe, however. that the founders intended to exclude logic when one applies the law but rather it intended to limit the range of application. The notoriety achieved by the NJ State Police occurred because they far exceeded the fuzzy limits of logic.

    Whatever the long-term solution for ending terrorism is, it’s not likely to occur in our life times. Revenge is the natural recourse for us hairless apes. Both sides share blame. Which side shares the most blame? Who can possibly be the judge of that? Each of us should look back at our footsteps, exam them carefully, and determine if they’ve taken us in the right direction.

    I’ve drifted off topic but to respond to Zero:

    I was not trying to implicate Clinton in one way or the other, I was just trying to establish a time-line i.e., neither the Bush administration nor Ashcroft had input to their enactment.

    I’m in agreement with you re: “three strikes you’re out”, but not so far as to discard it, just severely limit its scope.

    Historically, those in prison tend to return whether they’ve been in a chain gang or had a motel like existence. Perhaps we can both look forward to the near-future. For many types of crimes, it should be possible not to sentence one to prison, but simply have ones activities monitored. Technology improvements may make prison terms a thing of the past.
  21. Oct 26, 2003 #20
    So lets look at what happens in some trials, in a pretrail hearing the judge hears evidence from someone whom, when asked a certain question, answers "Yes" to that question.

    But the judge hears all of the surrounding crcumstantialities that he/she realizes are definetely NOT the subject of the trial, are clearly VERY embarressing to the witness, (who must say "Yes" only to be truthfull) but also recognizes that that "Yes" makes the witness look 'guilty' even though all of the rest of the testimony, (the embarressing stuff) proves that "Yes" responce as exculpatory (Proving of their innocence in it) and therefore decides to throw out a little piece of evidence that would have lead to that question being raised, at trial.

    Now we go to the actual trial, you are the jury, you have no idea of what is written above herein, and the lawyer who was at the pretrial gets that question into the trial just the same knowing it will make the person look guilty.

    But the Judge is NOT supposed to be worried about such an event as she/he knows to simply instruct the jury to "disreguard the testimony".

    Now you wanted to ignore the judges instructions in here, somehow, and do you realize just what you would be doing to the person, in this case??
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