The Jury’s Secret Power
JUDGES WON’T TELL YOU THIS, but when you sit on a jury in a Pinellas County (or anywhere) criminal trial, you have the right to vote according to your conscience, no matter what the judge says about the law. As a juror, you are the final safeguard for justice. If you think that the criminal charge is based on a bad law, or a good law that is not being applied properly, or that there are other factors that would make you regret a vote to convict someone, then it is your right and duty as a juror to vote “Not Guilty”.
When our country was young, all jurors were told of their right to judge the law, as well as the person charged with a crime. It was then recognized that our lawmakers sometimes pass bad laws, and that at times good laws are misused. But juries ignored bad laws “too often”. They wouldn’t convict those who aided runaway slaves, they acquitted striking coal miners, and they freed bootleggers who were charged under prohibition laws, until judges decided that juries should no longer be told of their power to act as a safeguard against bad laws or unethical lawmakers. Now, all jurors are instructed to accept the law, as it is given to them by the judge, even in cases where the law is clearly unjust.
This is wrong, and it goes against everything our courts were founded on. It’s YOUR right to decide the fairness of the law, if that law was applied wrong, and to acquit anyone accused, if a “guilt” verdict would go against your conscious.