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Be the best you can be

Carlyse North
Friday June 28, 2002

To the Editor: 

Oh, the noise when the wheels of justice encounter the will of the people.  

On Monday, June 24th, at the Sacramento Federal Courthouse, the first Federal case involving a medical marijuana cooperative was due to begin. 

Forty-two prospective jurors were dismissed due to jury contamination. Allegedly, one of the reasons for contamination was a piece of literature handed to all passersby, regarding our rights as jurors to vote our conscience. 

In a trial by jury, the judge's job is to referee the event and provide neutral legal advice to the jury, beginning with a full explanation of a juror's rights and responsibilities. But judges only rarely ‘fully inform’ jurors of their rights, especially their right to judge the law itself and vote on the verdict according to conscience. In fact, they regularly assist the prosecution by dismissing any prospective juror who will admit knowing about this right. 

Trial by jury is part of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Juries can nullify or veto a law, or bring in a general verdict. However, a 1895 Supreme Court decision held that jurors need not be told their rights. 

Our government is ‘of, by and for the people.’ America's Founders realized that trials by juries of ordinary citizens, fully informed of their powers as jurors, would confine the government to its proper role as the servant, not the master, of the people. 

Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, put it like this: “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” 

John Adams, our second president, said about jurors: “It is not only his right, but his duty… to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.” 

For more information, you can contact the Fully Informed Jury Association, at Inform yourself, learn everyday, and be the best citizen you can be. 


Carlyse North