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A Funny Thing Happened on Jury Duty

The first trial was for a man accused of selling crack - second offense -
and carrying a gun.
During that jury selection the Judge asked if anyone believed drug
enforcement laws were too harsh or not harsh enough. I raised my hand
and explained that I felt it is wrong that we have our prisons 75% full of
drug addicts when there are so many corporate criminals who are given a
slap on the wrist after stealing hundreds of millions of dollars. The judge
said "Alright Mr. Burbeck, you are excused".

I later found out that this was his second trial on the offense. He was a
member of a gang, and the first trial was thrown out due to jury tampering.
I also found out that he was later found guilty.

The second trial was for an ex-con accused of carrying a gun.

Again, questions were asked of the prospective jury members. "Have any
of you been on a jury before?" I raised my hand and told of the trial in
LA where a man was accused of his third offense of car theft and we
convicted him and sent him away for life (the "three strikes" law). I
explained to the judge that we didn't want to send a man to prison for
life for stealing cars and that I felt the three strikes law should apply to
violent crimes only. "It was a very unpleasant experience, your Honor."
I also mentioned that "white collar" crime
penalties should be updated to reflect the magnitude of corporate
thieves who steal hundreds of millions of dollars. The judge said
"Alright Mr. Burbeck, you are excused".

The third trial was again for a crack cocain dealer. Again there were many
questions to the prospective jurors, one again was do you feel that the
punishments for drug offenses are too harsh or not harsh enough? I
again explained that I feel that the judicial system needs reform when
Michael Milken was fined $200 million dollars after stealing and cheating
the American public out of BILLIONS of dollars. He spent 18 months in
a minimum security prison and was released to spend his loot. "Milken's
punishment for costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars is
comically trivial" - a quote from Benjamin Stein who wrote a book
(License to Steal) on Milken's carreer in crime.

The judge asked "But you can remain impartial and perform you service
as a jury member, couldn't you?" I said "No, I can't say that your Honor."
She said "Alright Mr. Burbeck, you are excused".

At each of these instances I felt a little like I was shirking my responsibility
as a citizen, and then I remembered the trial in LA where we had no choice
but to send a man away for life, when we didn't feel it was appropriate. At
that trial, when we got to the deliberation room and it was clear that
the verdict was going to be guilty, I stopped the proceedings and filed
the form to ask the judge a question. She dragged everyone back into the court
room and read my question - "Can the jury recommend psychological evaluation
of the defendant?" The Judge turned to the jury and rather rudely told us that
our only task was to determine guilt or innocence.

It really was a very horrible experience and I truely believe that the judicial system
needs major reform, so the shirking of responsibility feeling lasted only till I
remembered how I was forced to perpetuate what I feel is a judicial injustice.
In my opinion, they got more than they deserved out of me.

(The quotes are from the best of my recollection and may not be exact. I did
not take notes and recording devices are forbidden).

add a comment on this article

Thank you 08.Feb.2005 02:14

Dance

Thanks for sharing this with us. It's unfortunate that people don't talk more about what goes on in courtrooms and jury rooms. There seems to be a strange silence about it.

similar experiences 08.Feb.2005 05:34

nobody

I had a similar experience in an Arizona courtroom. I prospective jurors were asked the question: "Do any of you have a problem with ruling according to the law and following my directions"? I raised my hand and explained that I could find a person guilty of a crime that was unjust or the punishment did not fit the crime. I was excused too. We cannot change the system from the jurybox, as much as we'd all like to try. The judges are all corrupt tax collectors at best. Voting doesn't work, marches have no effect. What will work to end this crap?

Jury Nullification 08.Feb.2005 07:46

waiting room

Don't set yourself up to be excused from a jury where you can possibly make an important difference to the accused and to the system. Unless you _want_ to be excused, keep your mouth shut about your concerns about unjust laws.

Do a google on "jury nullification" and you will find much info on this important aspect of jury duty.

"The role of our jurors is to protect private citizens from dangerous, unconstitutional government laws and actions. Many existing laws erode and deny the rights of the people. Jurors protect against tyranny by refusing to convict harmless people. Our country's founders planned and expected that we, the people, would exercise this power and authority to judge the law as well as the facts every time we serve as jurors. Juries are the last peaceful defense of our civil liberties."

One of the easiest and most effective ways to work within the system to defeat injustice is by taking an active part in a jury.

There used to be folks who handed out info pamphlets on jury nullification outside the courthouse to jurors. Do they still do this? If not, it would be a good thing to get started again.

. 08.Feb.2005 14:32

Trek

hahaha, I just wrote 2 long paragraphs about my experience with a rightwing activist judge here in New Jersey, I clicked on submit, and the motherfucking thing failed. My article vanished into the netherregions of cyberspace.

I cannot wait till the internet is obsolete.

shut your mouth and fuckt he system 08.Feb.2005 17:51

martha muffin

Idiots like Judges should never be taken seriously. The only thing you can do is try to infiltrate their system to be a monkey wrench that deroutes it.

Info for Jurors 08.Feb.2005 18:10

Dave

check out the Fully Informed Jury Association at  http://www.americanjuryinstitute.org They have good info on juror's rights and how to fight for a verdict that agrees with Constitutional law rather than the opinion of a bribe-stricken judge.

Jury Power 08.Feb.2005 18:19

---

Yeah, I understand that juries can refuse to convict if they don't like the penalty. Actually, it's very controversial whether judges should inform them of this right or not. In an animal abuse case that I'm familiar with, jurors refused to convict because they believed the abuse was not significant. However, I had a friend convicted for pot because the judge refused to tell the jury that had any option other than to convict if the evidence pointed in that direction.

More Info for Jurors 08.Feb.2005 18:19

Dave

whoops, forgot to mention the Handbook for Jurors at  http://www.caught.net/juror.htm

NULLIFY 08.Feb.2005 21:51

Dude w/puter

Art.I, Sec. 16 of Oregon's Constitution says:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed. Cruel and unusual punishment shall not be inflicted, but all penalties shall be proportioned to the offense. In all criminal cases whatever, the jury shall have the right to determine the law, and the facts under the direction of the Court as to the law, and the right of new trial, as in civil cases.

Nullify the Drug War!

A fully informed jury 09.Feb.2005 12:10

me

Many years ago, in parts of California, jurors revolted by becoming unwilling to convict, despite overwhelming evidence by the prosecution. This caused a momentary pause in the zealousness of the corrupt criminal justice system. Hence the drive to remove trial by jury. They knew the jurors knew the system was too corrupt to be trusted. So there is still a modicum of back door justice available for those willing to fight the system. You have to first be there to inform and that is where a fully informed jury system can make a difference.

My advice; if you are called to jury duty, first say what they want to hear to get selected and then do your "duty" as spelled out in the constitution and bill of rights. An informed juror knows that the juror can determine if the law is just before deciding guilt. The judges' instruction as to the authority of jurors is bogus. They can only get away with it if we go along with it.

legal system terrified of "informed jurors" 09.Feb.2005 20:04

ne1

The whole legal system is so terrified of the possibility that prospective jurors might become "informed" about the powers they have under the Constitution that there are many judges who will actually have their bailiffs drag you off the street and into jail on "contempt of court" for even handing out leaflets on the sidewalk within a block of the courthouse telling people about jury nullification. You know you're doing something right when handing out a leaflet in public can get you locked up! See  http://www.fija.org, where you should be able to find links to such leaflets.

We need to have people handing these things out every day on the streets outside our courthouses. They can't put us all in jail!

What's going on here anyway? 11.Feb.2005 04:06

Skwirl

I was the defendant in a 'lil Critical Mass trial (Interfering With a Peace Officer) over a year ago and the judge's instructions and jury oaths that I remember were morally baffling at the time and utterly in opposition to the Oregon Constitution as I now understand it. Is there anybody with some law background that can explain exactly what's going on here? I'm not going to believe that every single judge, police officer, court recorder, DA, journalist and Defense Attorney (!) is in on some big, obvious conspiracy. Why exactly are juries explicitly instructed that they can only rule on the facts of the case and that they must disregard personal belief and conscience? Are lawyers afraid of losing their bar credentials if they argue jury nullification? Why don't defense attorneys outright inform jurors themselves about juror's rights?

If you really are intent on getting in a particular jury, you've really got to hold your tongue, since the lawyers get several vetoes each. Sheeple and quiet types are always popular during final jury selection. One potential juror got axed from my jury super fast because he basically said, "I work in civil law, but Interfering with a Peace Officer sounds overly vague." (Incidentally, the recent State v. Illig-Renn ruling said just that. Say, anybody out there want to clue me in about what I should do now with the Illig ruling and getting my case expunged?)

Jury Nullification is hella important. Historically, we probably wouldn't have free speech if some jurors didn't stand up to the King in the 1735 Zenger seditious libel trial. Of course, the knife can cut both ways, since racist juries fueled so many of the injustices in the segregated South. However, it seems to me as a layperson that the system right now is really messed up and lacks even a semblance of internal consistency.

What's going on? 11.Feb.2005 10:43

response

Your question, are they all in on it, was very close to the situation at hand. We used to have common law courts where constitutiunal law was practiced. After the overthrow of our legal system only an attorney who swears on oath to the bar, headquartered in England, can practice in the modern day courts where admiralty law is practiced. Their juridiction on matters of common law are not valid. Because there are no common law courts today you can not argue your rights under the constitution. In their venue admiralty law or contract law is the only game in town. It is a very complicated issue and others have written good background on this subject. Try RBNlive.com and check out their resources on law if you want to fight back.

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