Source : Weed World (UK), Issue 17
Pubdate: Aug 1998



Trial by a Jury of one's peers is one of our basic Rights.  It was granted
to us all, after some pressure, by King John in 1215 and has been ratified
by our own Queen.  Yet upon investigation of the spirit and wording of that
Great Charter of English Liberties, I have to wonder just how far modern
trial approach those ideals and rights.

Magna Carta included the words "To no one will we sell, to no one deny or
delay right or justice".  It is clearly about rights and well as laws.

Before the Charter, laws were made by the Monarch and punishment for the
'guilty' decided and handed out by the employees of the throne. Until the
time of King John, laws could be made willy-nilly or for purely political
or economical reasons.  This meant that a person could effectively be
silenced or stopped by the imposition of a temporary law.  For example, it
could have been decided that this week it was illegal to, say, eat apples
on a Sunday, and anyone caught with apples could be thrown into prison or
have his property confiscated.  The next day the law could be changed
again.  Purely there was no justice in that!

At Runnymede in June 1215, King John was forced to grant the Right to Trial
by Jury.  This was to put a halt to tyrannical and unjust laws. After that,
every accused had the right to go before twelve of his peers who would
determine his guilt or innocence. Their individual decisions were to be
based upon the evidence presented to them by both sides and upon the
justice of the law. In this way, following my example above, the Jury could
agree that the accused had possessed an apple on Sunday, but that the law
itself was wrong and unjust and therefore return a Verdict of Not Guilty.
The exercise of law became governed by the willingness of a Jury to
convict, and that willingness was to be based upon not only the evidence
but also their individual consciences.  It was the Right and Duty of every
Juror to reach his verdict upon the very justice of the law, and, in cases
where the law is seen as unjust, declare a Not Guilty verdict.

Magna Carta would be meaningless if jurors could be forced to guilty
verdicts through instructions from the judge, simply because the accused
actions had been proved to some degree beyond doubt.. Laws could be made
for all sorts of hidden reasons such as profit, and people could be
punished for breaking a 'law', for example, and growing an apple tree, or,
for that matter, a cannabis plant, in their own back garden, or for using
it for food or medicine..

The Jury system is the way in which the people can challenge the law in the

My conclusion is that it is the Jurors duty to consider the justice of the
law and to use his decision in his determination of the Verdict.

So why, I ask, do we hear Judges so often tell the Jury that they must
reach their verdict on the evidence alone?

Can anyone explain this serious contradiction of our Rights?


A Buffry

(see 'Trial by Jury',
Spooner L., FIJI Educational Publications, PO Box 59, Helmville, Montana
59843, USA)

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Checked-by: Mike Gogulski