GUNS, VIOLENCE AND SOCIETY

Second Amendment considerations in the wake of the recent events in Arizona: first in a multi-part series.

The Arizona shooting has gotten me fired up to dive into this most contentious subject. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. While the gun control issue was certain to arise again, as it does after every high-profile shooting incident, I find it particularly interesting how long it took for the anti-gun faction to get into gear. Of course that meant that it took correspondingly long for the pro-gun faction to react to their opponents. I suspect the pros were holding their collective breath wondering what the antis were up to while the antis were trying to prepare a response that wouldn’t disrespect the victims but would make some kind of sense in the aftermath of the recent Supreme Court findings on the Second Amendment.

District of Columbia, et al. v. Heller

McDonald, et al. v. City of Chicago, Illinois, et al.

Over the next several posts, I want to try to dissect the gun control issue in a way that supports a rational discussion by otherwise reasonable people who hold a range of opinions that exist along a spectrum from totally banning firearms to removing all government imposed controls. I will not define my position at this point because I don’t want to be dismissed by those readers who might react with strong emotions to my observations and analysis. Accept or reject my ideas as you will; but, give me the benefit of the doubt until you have heard me out.

Come along for the ride. I welcome disagreement; but think first; and then comment if you wish to contribute. Of course, I have the right to terminate the involvement of anyone whose comments are rude, uncivil, or obviously deranged.

Juries trump judges?

Juries trump judges?

And prosecutors and legislators?

While I’m on the subject of jury duty, here’s a peculiar feature of the law that some prosecutors and judges and others in the legal field seem to be afraid might become general knowledge.

Jury nullification

General public knowledge of jury nullification might put greater power in the hands of juries than that held by judges, prosecutors and legislators (in a very limited but useful sense).

The concept of jury nullification challenges the idea that, in the courtroom, judges interpret the law and juries interpret the evidence and render verdicts under the instructions of the judge regarding the law and its application.

Jury nullification allows the jury to ignore the judge’s instructions and, in essence, nullify, or throw out, the law or its application in the specific case being tried. Jury nullification is the finding by the jury that either the law is a bad law or it is being applied improperly in a specific case.

The concept is centuries old and is based in Common Law, which is part of the foundation of our legal system. Its history in North America starts in 1734 when a printer named John Peter Zenger was acquitted of seditious libel, contrary to the instructions of the judge hearing the case.

Jury nullification challenges State power. As such, it is a dangerous, subversive and powerful tool for maintaining the peoples’ hold on power.

It has a potential dark side. Theoretically, it could be used by a jury of racists or homophobes to acquit a person guilty of a hate crime.

On the other hand, consider the medical marijuana controversy. What if juries in Federal courts refused to convict medical marijuana growers, distributors and users in States that have legalized such use? Could the Federal government continue to interfere with the medicinal use of a proven, beneficial and natural drug?

There are a lot of questions that come to mind as I study jury nullification; I’m just getting started. It’s not my purpose here to expound on a complicated and controversial subject. I would be happy if a few of my readers pursued the study, on their own.

Following is a list of web-based resources. Google for more.

Reactions?

http://www.fija.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification

http://www.levellers.org/jrp/

http://www.crfc.org/americanjury/nullification.html

http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/zenger/nullification.html