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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jury Nullification May Be The Only Salvation For The Antiwar Activists

"…law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."

--Thomas Jefferson

The Supreme Court's decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project to uphold the "material support" of terrorism statute (18 U. S. C. §2339B(a)(1)) has truly turned the law into the tyrant’s weapon. In their June 21, 2010 decision they wrote, "Congress and the Executive are uniquely positioned to make principled distinctions between activities that will further terrorist conduct and undermine United States foreign policy, and those that will not." With these words the Supreme Court made a criminal of anyone that has had any contact with an organization on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. This author is astounded at the court’s naiveté in proclaiming that the government is able to make such "principled distinctions". They’ve abdicated their role as guardians of our liberties by rubber stamping this repressive law.

Additionally, for an organization to be placed on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations it need only threaten the "economic interests" of the USA. This criteria is way too vague to have any other meaning than to allow them to designate almost anyone as a terrorist. Had the British had this law on their books they could have labeled Gandhi as one!

Enter the FBI raids on antiwar activists of September 24, 2010. Search warrants were executed in Minneapolis, Chicago, Michigan, and North Carolina against members of left wing groups that had visited with or advocated for either Colombia’s FARC or Israel/Palestine’s Hammas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Subpoenas to appear before federal grand juries were served to up to thirteen people. The individuals and organizations involved maintain that these raids are merely a fishing expedition and that they have done nothing wrong. As of this writing the first of the grand jury proceedings had only just started. Given that we live in an age when it has been said that "A good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich." It is sadly very likely that indictments will follow. If this is the case jury nullification may be these activists only salvation.

Jury nullification is a well established legal doctrine that allows a jury to find a defendant not guilty despite the fact that they may have broken the law. (This is not to say that the above mentioned activists have done so.) As stated on the Fully Informed Jury Association’s (FIJA) website:
The primary function of the independent juror is not, as many think, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by government.
The Constitution guarantees you the right to trial by jury. This means that government must bring its case before a jury of The People if government wants to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property. Jurors can say no to government tyranny by refusing to convict.
Since many judges instruct juries that they are required to follow what he or she says is the law, most jurors are ignorant of the real powers they have. This, of course, negates the real purpose of a jury, which is to protect their fellow citizens from unjust law and prosecution.

While we may disagree about many things with the victims of the FBI raids of September 24 and their colleagues, most libertarians stand with them in opposing this oppression and are with them in opposing the US government’s imperial wars. These raids have only one purpose, to silence dissent. We can’t let them succeed. Now is the time to put our differences aside to speak for liberty with one voice, for as they do to the left now they may one day try to do to all dissidents.

The particular cause is not the issue, the principle is. This libertarian is not in agreement with supporting the FARC, for example. However, if private citizens want to use their own resources to support such causes overseas they are doing exactly what we have advocated for many years. Libertarians have said that we should not be taxed and, therefore, forced to fund foreign groups or governments. If someone wants to support something they should voluntarily give their support or money. This is their right and that is all these antiwar activists have done.

We all need to join forces to spread the word to potential jurors if the antiwar activists are taken to trial. Jury nullification may be their only hope against this government’s tyranny.


  1. Another libertarian, Henry Whitney, covered this same subject from a different perspective. he is absolutely right in his reasoning as to why libertarians should support the antiwar activists targeted by the govt:

    First They Came for the Leftists