On December 6th a grave injustice was perpetrated by our own government against two men exercising their right to free speech. Mark Schmidter and Julian Heicklen were arrested for trespassing on the sidewalk in front of the Orange County Courthouse thus violating an administrative order by Judge Belvin Perry. Their crime? Passing out a handout from the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) helping to educate potential jurors to their duties as a juror. Both men had been previously arrested for this “crime”. I know personally that Mark Schmidter served over 100 days in jail for his last interaction with Belvin Perry. I applaud both gentlemen for putting their personal liberty aside and doing what is right. They knew they were going to get arrested. This is most likely just the start of an agenda to expose this kind of blatant disregard for our rights and to further the cause of FIJA though I have not confirmed that with either of the men. I do know that Mark is a thorn in the side of the court system here in Orange County and has taken them to task on a couple different occasions.
In honor of these two men’s struggle, I wish to help the cause they are fighting for and tell the story of FIJA and why it is so important. Many people say “well what can one person do to make a difference?” Being an informed juror is one of the answers to that question.
As articulated in Article 3, the 6th and 7th Amendments of the Constitution everybody has the right to a trial by jury in any significant court proceeding. Significant describes any criminal case and any civil case whose value exceeds $20. This supports the idea that we the people are in control of justice. Congressmen and government can pass whatever laws they want. It is juries that determine the guilt or innocence of the people who go to trial.
FIJA describes the role of a jury as follows:
“The primary function of the independent juror is not, as many think, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by government.
The Constitution guarantees you the right to a trial by jury. This means that government must bring its case before a jury of The People if government wants to deprive any person of life, liberty or property. Jurors can say no to government tyranny by refusing to convict.”
FIJA works to:
- Inform potential jurors of their traditional, legal authority to refuse to enforce unjust laws
- Inform potential jurors that they cannot be required to check their consciences at the courthouse door
- Inform potential jurors that they cannot be punished for their verdicts
- Inform everyone that juror veto- jury nullification- is a peaceful way to protect human rights against corrupt politicians and government tyranny.
Jury nullification is nothing new. In response to the 18th Amendment, jury nullification became a tool to stop the tyranny of the federal government. People who were plainly guilty of selling alcohol in defiance of the 18th were regularly not convicted by juries for their flouting of the law. There was nothing that government could do. Jury nullification played a big part in the passage of the 21st Amendment which repealed the 18th Amendment.
Another case of jury nullification crushing government tyranny was the people’s opposition to the Fugitive Slave laws passed by Congress. In two separate cases, the Shadrach Rescue Trials and the Jerry Rescue trials, abolitionists who were brought to trial for rescuing slaves and helping them to escape their owners were acquitted by juries. They clearly had broken the “law”‘ but jurors decided that the laws were unjust and refused to convict.
Here in Florida we just passed a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana to be distributed to patients. Many others, including myself, want to stop putting people in cages for using a plant. Jury nullification could do exactly that. Ant crime that lacks a victim is not a crime. Government trying to protect people from themselves is just another way that government controls our lives.
We the people wield significant power to curb government tyranny. No matter what laws are on the books it takes a jury to send a person to prison or to take their property. It is up to we the people to take our rightful place in this republic and reject government tyranny. Jury nullification is a major avenue to do just that. FIJA could use your support. Let’s not make Mark Schmidter and Julian Heicklen’s sacrifice be in vain. Get educated and get active. Liberty will not defend itself and needs true Americans to step up and support it. Do it for the people alive today and the unborn millions who depend on us to pass on the freedoms that were bequeathed to us. Patriots Awake!