Monday, November 04, 2013

TX: Grisham (open carry) Case Shows Need for Jury Education

The recent mistrial in the case of U.S. Army Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham shows the lack of education of the Bell County jurors.

The mistrial occurred because only one juror of the six understood his rights and responsibilities as a juror.    Initially, according to a member of the jury,  L. J. Cotterill, the jury agreed:
“we all agreed that the charge itself and the case itself was garbage. This entire matter should have been resolved by two grown men acting like grown men apologizing for their part in a bad situation and buying each other a beer and then going to a range together.”
 The problem was that the jury did not know their rights and power to find "not guilty" if justice demanded it, and to ignore a judges instructions.  The ability to ignore a judge's instructions is one of the most important parts of jury duty.  It derives directly from English common law and the landmark case of  Peter Zenger in 1734.   

If a jury is bound to follow the judges instructions, they become, in effect, nothing more than government employees, instead of free people with a duty to hold the government as well as citizens accountable.

Jurors were commonly told of their power to nullify unjust law until 1895, when the Supreme Court ruled that a jury need not be told of their right to judge the law.   Judges have become more and more hostile toward juries power to nullify since that time, to the point that defense counsels are forbidden from telling juries that they have the power.  

To correct this imbalance in the law, some states are considering requiring that juries be instructed about their powers as a jury.  Georgia is considering such a law in 2013.

In the Grisham case, the  jury was told that they had no ability to consider anything other than what  the judge instructed:

“If I had been allowed to factor in self-defense,” Cotterill said, “This would have probably been a two-minute deliberation and we all would have went ‘not guilty.’”
The problem is, he explained, all the jury was allowed to consider was criminal negligence using the definition that had been provided. The jury was not allowed to factor in circumstance or anything else – it was just did this thing happen? All evidence considered had to be from witness statements.
After 12 hours of arguing “not guilty,” Cotterill said he had to admit that Grisham did indeed commit the acts. The jury, he said, was not there to decide if there were mitigating circumstances.
It was only because one juror was not cowed by the judge that Grisham was not found guilty, even though all the jurors believed that a finding of guilty was uncalled for.

The case shows that second amendment supporters have a lot of education to accomplish so that those who support the second amendment understand the power of the jury box.  It is a way to prevent injustice without resorting to armed resistance.    All of the five jurors who voted to find Grisham guilty claimed to be second amendment supporters.   The one brave and stubborn juror who held his ground against the judge and five fellow jurors was the only one who did not claim to be "pro gun".

The jury composition included corrections officer Cotterill, a law enforcement officer and a Marine. He said all but one – the individual who voted “not guilty” – were pro-gun.
Everyone wants to avoid bloodshed to restore the constitutional limits on government that have been chipped away during the last hundred plus years.  Using the jury box to limit government excesses is a strong tool in our kit.

Clearly, the jurors in Bell County, Texas, are desperately in need of education.

Link to Fully Informed Jury Association

©2013 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch


Anonymous said...

Gun rights supporters are their own worst enemy. Most of us agree that we need to enforce the laws already on the books and not enact new ones but when some of those existing laws are all around bad, most gun owners/supporters will support those laws blindly. I say FIJA!!

Wireless.Phil said...

Nat Geo:

More Women Give Hunting a Shot
Kristen A. Schmitt

for National Geographic

Published November 3, 2013

In recent years, American women are spending more time in tree stands and deer blinds—and putting fresh meat on the table. Although men still account for the majority of the 13.7 million U.S. hunters, the number of women actively hunting is on the rise.

Anonymous said...

Woe be it to the juror who informs other jurors of their rights. This is something that has to be known in advance or somebody gets in trouble. I'd like to see a note sent to the judge which asks: "Haven't U.S. juries always had the right to judge law as well as fact, and if not, don't jurors have the right to simply vote 'Not Guilty" without expressing any reason?" I wonder how fast that would get a mistrial?