by FIJA co-founder Larry Dodge
April 7, 1988 was a very bad day for Darlene and Jerry Span, sibling owner-operators of a flea market in their yard in Phoenix, Arizona. The trouble began when two casually dressed men entered the market to show them a photo of a man they said was a fugitive from justice and, furthermore, that it was a photo of their brother Mickey Michael. They then demanded that the Spans produce him.
The Spans looked at the photo, remarking that it in no way resembled their brother, that the name on the photo was not spelled like their brother's, and that besides, Mickey Michael was not on the premises. Jerry said he didn't know the man in the picture, but would show it around to see if anyone else did. Then he and his sister made their first mistake: they turned their backs on the two men, to attend some of their customers.
At that time, according to witnesses, one of the men grabbed Darlene by the hair and flung her to the ground, while the other hit Jerry in the head, kicked him in the back, shoved him to the ground and held him there--no difficult task, since he outweighed Jerry by about 90 pounds. As one witness later put it, the Spans "...had their backs turned when [the two men] blind-sided them. Darlene and Jerry never knew what hit them."
The Span's mother, Virginia, upon hearing the commotion, got out of bed, where she had been recuperating after hospitalization, and worked her way downstairs to see what the trouble was. She had the presence of mind to bring a camera, and began snapping photos of the assault, whereupon the heavier of the two men grabbed her, wrested the camera away, opened it, tore out the film, and squashed it with his heel.
Jerry and Darlene, fearful for their mother's safety, then made their second mistake: they tried to come to her rescue, but were beaten back and prevented from reaching her. Someone called the Phoenix police, and when they arrived on the scene, the two men finally identified themselves as federal marshals David Dains and Garry Grotewold. Jerry and Darlene were then arrested and charged with assaulting federal officers in their course of duty.
Perhaps their third mistake was this: they asked for a trial by jury. The Spans figured their case was solid. There were witnesses, and some other photos that the marshals hadn't been able to destroy; the men had not identified themselves as law officers before attacking them; and the Span family had been longtime local residents with spotless records and a reputation for hard work and honest business dealings. Surely, a jury would exonerate them.
But Jerry and Darlene simply weren't prepared for the way the justice system works in this day and age. They didn't know that some of their best witnesses would be intimidated into leaving town, or that their lawyer would do a half-hearted job for them. They didn't anticipate that an affidavit from another federal marshal alleging that Dains and Grotewold had a track record of provoking violence would not be allowed into evidence, or that the marshals would lie under oath (Dains, for example, claimed that Virginia had bitten him--and the jury was never told that she had no teeth!) They didn't realize that there would be no way to tell the jury how the marshals had beaten up their father Bill at his home prior to arriving at the market--after all, there were no witnesses to that beating...
Most seriously, the Spans did not realize that the jury would be instructed by federal Judge Robert Broomfield that they were to apply the letter of the law as he gave it to them, whether or not they agreed with the law. His interpretation of the law was this: "Federal officers engaged in good faith and colorable performance of their duties may not be forcibly resisted, even if the resister turns out to be correct, that the resisted actions should not, in fact, have been taken. The statute requires him to submit peaceably and seek legal redress thereafter."
Thus instructed, the jury returned guilty verdicts, then surrounded and embraced Jerry and Darlene, several of them in tears. They explained that they saw through the whole charade, and believed the Spans were really in the right, but felt they "had no choice but to convict" because of what the judge said. Five of them later filed an affidavit with the court expressing their remorse at being forced to apply such an unjust statute. In their own words, "Such a law is completely unfair and against everything that the United States stands for."
Alas, it was to no avail. The Span case is still festering in the federal appeals courts. Untold tens of thousands of dollars have been invested in their defense, their business is gone, and both their parents have since died--Bill apparently having never recovered from his beating. And yes, it did turn out that the Mickey Michael Span was not the man that Dains and Grotewold were looking for, after all.
Is this an isolated incident? Hardly. Does it sound a lot like what happened to the Branch Davidians, in Waco, Texas? Does the arrest methodology recall what happened to Randy Weaver, in Ruby Creek, Idaho? Does the remorse expressed by the jury remind us of how the jurors felt after convicting the defendants in the famous Sanctuary Cases--of violating immigration laws by harboring refugees from Central America who would have been killed had they not fled to the United States?
And these well-known cases are just the tip of the iceberg. There were many cases during the 1960's and 70's in which juries tearfully convicted young men who resisted the draft because they, like the defendants, felt that the Viet Nam war was immoral. Our penitentiaries contain untold numbers of battered women who, after years of beatings, intimidation, and failed escape attempts, finally killed their abusive husbands. Most were convicted of first degree murder by juries told they had to follow "the letter of the law".
America now leads the world in the percent of its population behind bars, and a substantial fraction of these inmates (as high as half of them, by the estimate of at least one state penitentiary warden known to this author) are "harmless". Many of them indeed violated the letter of the law, but had good moral reasons for doing so--reasons which either cut no ice with the judge, or were not considered by juries because the judge would not allow it.
Unfortunately, the escalating incarceration rate is used by government to document an alleged "crime wave", which in turn allows its agents to violate still more individual rights and to disinform still more juries. This "justifies" the passage of still more restrictive laws, construction of still more prisons, and incarceration of still more citizens, both harmless and otherwise, in an ever-accelerating vicious cycle.
It wasn't always so. There was once a mechanism by which the citizens could control their government--could say "no" to bad law (or the misapplication of good law), thus ensuring that prison time was rarely served by those whose actions were not harmful to society. That mechanism was called "jury veto power", or "jury nullification of law". It remains in force today, but only as the best-kept secret of the justice system, a secret which desperately needs telling if the juggernaut of neo-fascism is to be stopped.
What is it? Simply put, jury nullification is the power of the jury to judge the law itself, as well as the evidence, in deciding a verdict. It would have made all the difference in the Span case, for example, had the jurors known that the law they detested was "on trial", as much as Jerry and Darlene. If their own sense of justice would not allow them, in good conscience, to find the Spans guilty, they could have acquitted them, despite the "letter of the law" and the evidence given them.
But they didn't know they had such power, because they were not told about it, and not to know it is not to have it. In fact, it's been a century since juries have been routinely reminded by the courts of their power to reach a verdict according to conscience, the law and facts of the case notwithstanding. It used to be normal procedure for the judge to tell the jury that the law was a guideline, not a mandate, for its deliberations. But ever since a bitterly split Supreme Court decision in 1895 (Sparf and Hansen v. US), which held that it is not "reversible error" for the judge to fail to so inform the jurors, the bench has largely gone mum on the subject.
This century of silence represents perhaps the most serious--if unsung--usurpation of citizen power since the nation's Founders wrote and ratified our Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Framers were well aware of the power of juries to buffer government power and thwart government tyranny, and therefore included the right of trial by jury no less than three times in their handiwork--once in the main body of the Constitution, and twice in the Bill of Rights, as Amendments 6 and 7 (and once more, by implication, in the "due process" portion of Amendment 5.)
Their perspective is nicely summarized by Thomas Jefferson in a 1789 letter to Thomas Paine, in which he said, "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet devised by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
The reason the Founders were so enamored of the principle of trial by jury, borrowed directly from English common law, was hard experience. They knew that colonist William Penn had been freed of charges that he had preached an illegal religion (Quakerism) in London in 1670, by jurors who had stood their ground for acquittal despite being detained without food, water, or toilet facilities for days. All were then fined, for delivering a not guilty verdict, and four were imprisoned for refusing to pay the fine. Their release by the highest court of England established not only that jurors have the power to find the verdict as they see fit, with impunity, but also established our freedoms of speech, peaceable assembly, and religion.
The Founders were doubtless aware that the witch trials in Salem had finally ceased following fifty-two jury acquittals. From highly publicized recent history, they would have known that a jury had stood up to the court in New York and acquitted John Peter Zenger of "seditious libel" for publishing true, but critical stories about the colonial governor, despite being admonished by the judge that "truth is no defense". And they were well aware that colonial juries had refused to apply the Navigation Acts to sea captains who had brought goods to the colonies without first paying Mother England for the privilege of doing so: they had just recently won a war of independence, declared in part because England had been extraditing these sea captains and trying them without juries.
What Jefferson and his like-minded colleagues did not know was that their concept of the jury would be perverted a little over a century later by the U.S. Supreme Court. Their writings used the word "jury" as it was defined at the time, as in Noah Webster's original dictionary, which he published in 1828 in order to preserve the integrity of the language of the U.S. Constitution: "Petty juries, consisting usually of twelve men, attend courts...to decide both the law and the fact in criminal prosecutions."
That definition, and jury instructions based upon it, were prevalent during the 18th and 19th centuries, and lingered to some degree even after Sparf and Hansen. Both the intent and the result of juries judging "both law and fact" was exactly as intended by the Founders. It gave the citizens a routine and effective handle on the government: they could say "no" to the prosecution of an accused person if they disapproved of the law itself or the way it was being used. Not only did this do much to ensure that justice was served, it sent powerful messages back to the lawmakers--to rework or repeal legislation that the people were refusing to apply.
In other words, in addition to providing a way for the accused to receive justice at the hands of his peers in the courtroom, the Founders expected the institution of trial by jury to "check and balance" the entire government. They did not expect such performance out of democratic elections, recall procedures, constitutional referenda, free speech, law making, or any other institution, political or otherwise. When Jefferson said that trial by jury was the "only anchor", he meant exactly that.
Nonetheless, periodic objections from the courts of the land were heard on occasion, as early as the 1820's and 1830's. One argument was that because bad law was no longer sent here from England, American jurors would no longer "need" the power to reject it. And besides, Americans could now "have their say on the law" through their elected representatives...)
But the practice of informing the jury of its full range of powers remained widespread, and for decades functioned exactly as intended by the Founders. For example, in northern states, juries began awarding abused slaves with freedom as well as damages against their masters. The trend had resulted in legislatures outlawing slavery in most of the North by the time fugitive slave laws were passed, and it became difficult to find a jury which would convict either runaway slaves or underground railroaders charged under those laws. And juries had already begun awarding damages to slaves in southern states by the time the Civil War began. It was during this era that the courts began interrogating potential jurors to determine whether they agreed with the law--as a condition of serving! But a lot of people must have had their fingers crossed while they responded...
Juries also came to the rescue of organized labor in the late 1800's, when laws prohibiting striking were passed. Factory workers, faced with no other tool by which to defend the value or other conditions of their labor, struck anyway. Local juries proved very prone to relate to the plight of strikers and to acquit them, despite clear evidence that they had, indeed, stopped working and talked their fellow workers into doing likewise. Some historians cite pressure on the courts from Big Business to "do something" about these "runaway juries" as the hidden agenda behind the Supreme Court's decision in Sparf and Hansen.
In any event, since that time, few people have been apprised of their power as jurors. It's not taught in public (government) schools. Nor is it taught in college sociology or political science classes. And most law schools don't cover the subject of jury nullification, either. Worst of all, it's not explained in the courtrooms of the land to the people who most need to know about it--the jurors. Judges only rarely so inform the jury, and lawyers can face contempt charges if they insist on "telling" the jury without prior approval from the bench.
The results have been disastrous. Not only are our jails packed with harmless people, but special-interest laws of every description (inevitably disguised as laws designed to serve the common good) have multiplied into the millions, unchecked by jury review. The worst of these laws have created "crimes against the state", otherwise known as "political crimes" or "victimless crimes". These were unknown under the common law, and unenforceable in the heyday of fully informed, fully empowered trial juries.
In short, without the bottom-line check and balance power which juries were intended to exert, our constitutional republic is rapidly degenerating into a police state. To the extent that interest groups can get laws passed to suit themselves, and the largest and most powerful interest group is a government which can regularly hoodwink the citizen juries into enforcing these laws against fellow citizens, America faces imminent totalitarian control.
Clearly, the road back to constitutional government is to restore the power of the jury. It's been over sixty years since jury veto power struck its last major blow for freedom, when uncounted thousands of acquittals by jury made Prohibition politically unsustainable, and it was repealed. Like the fugitive slave laws, it was a case of special-interest law discarded by a rights-conscious citizenry.
The 19th century also produced scholars who had much appreciation for the power of the jury, such as Lysander Spooner. In his 1852 book Trial by Jury, Spooner stressed the political importance of jury veto power to the continued health of the Republic. Though he never had to take to the streets for jury veto power because the problems he anticipated were years away, fulfillment of Spooner's predictions underlies much of today's movement for a return to "Fully Informed Juries".
For example, he correctly predicted that juries would be reduced to "finders of fact", while the government would decide both the law and how the jury should apply it. And he warned that the government could therefore make absolutely anything illegal, and would do so in its inevitable quest to enslave the citizenry, unless stopped in its tracks by jury nullification.
It's far too late now to prevent the damage that Spooner foresaw, but a grassroots organization known as the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) believes that if there's a chink in the armor of the juggernaut, it's in telling the juries of America that they can vote on the verdict according to conscience. FIJA's goal is to reverse damage already done, and to prevent its recurrence.
According to founders of the organization Larry Dodge and Don Doig, "it all began" when Larry took in a lecture by M. J. "Red" Beckman, Montana's "Fighting Redhead" tax resister. Red challenged his audience by saying he was going to tell them something about their Constitution that they didn't already know. It was actually quite a challenge, since it was delivered to delegates at a 1979 Montana Libertarian Party convention. But Red made good. He explained the power of the jury and its constitutional basis, and no one in the audience could say he or she "knew that already".
But it wasn't until eight years later that a second exposure to the idea caused Larry to see just how generally jury veto power could apply to the laws of the land, especially to victimless or "political" crime laws, his nemesis. At an "initiatives fair" which Larry organized as the main event for the 1987 Montana Libertarian Party convention, one of the citizen initiatives proposed would have required the courts of Montana to inform all trial jurors of their veto power.
That was the spark which inspired Larry to consult with longtime fellow freedom fighter Don Doig, and "get something going." The idea seemed to have few, if any holes in it:  procedure in both state and federal courts is subject to statute law;  legal bases for jury nullification already exist in both constitutional and case law (even in Sparf and Hansen, the majority opinion acknowledges--but rues--the power of the jury to disregard the law, yet says that the Court would respect any state law or tradition which requires that jurors shall be so told);  jury veto power is relatively easily explained--and once explained, the job is done;  it has the potential to become a very broad-based movement, because the proliferation of crimes against the state has adversely affected practically everyone by now, giving people from every walk of life at least some personal incentive to work for restoration of jury power; and  it's within the realm of the possible, because it only requires reminding people of a power they already have, instead of asking that they chart a new course for the American Dream.
All of the above assumptions proved to be true, at least to some extent. Resistance on the part of legislatures to enact "FIJA" laws was stiff at first, but now that various state FIJA organizations have grown stronger, and have been lobbying for several years, proposed FIJA legislation is gaining ground, passing one house in each of two states in 1993, with several possible success stories in sight for 1995.
That's in part because many legislators are now satisfied, after doing some homework, that fully informed juries are indeed part of our judicial heritage after all. Liking that idea has come instantly for some lawmakers, but glacially or not at all for others. Most of the opposition has come from those whose vested interests lie in maintaining the (political) crime wave, such as law enforcement and district attorney associations, or people who build or operate prisons, and some judges.
But for lawmakers and interest groups alike, the truth about jury veto power is translating into receptivity. At this point, to deny its reality is to express one's ignorance. To be against the idea of telling juries about their power is to espouse misinforming them that they must follow the law, like it or not. It's to say the justice system (not to mention the rest of our government) works best when citizens are deliberately kept ignorant of their rights and powers, especially when called upon to judge their fellows.
And indeed, FIJA has developed a broad-based following. Expectably, the initial sources of enthusiasm have been from the fringes of the social and political spectra: marijuana users who believe they have a right to ingest whatever they please; motorists who insist that they have a right to decide whether or not to buckle their safety belts; home schoolers who refuse to submit to the state's curriculum and testing programs; gun owners who want to enjoy their right to keep and bear arms without regulation by the government; radical environmentalists who want to be able explain to juries the merits of tree-hugging; tax resisters wanting to argue that this or that tax law is unconstitutional; true believers on both sides of the abortion issue; and, of course, prison inmates who feel they got unfair trials.
But, increasingly, interest has developed among people more toward the middle of these spectra as the laws of the land proliferate to the point that their lifestyles and behaviors are subject to restriction, regulation, and criminalization. FIJA is now garnering support from persecuted vitamin and nutritional supplements merchants, alternative and mainstream medical practitioners, gun shop owners, taxicab drivers, defense attorneys, investors, ministers, and innocent owners confiscated property. FIJA has also persuaded over a dozen state governors to issue proclamations establishing September 5 (the anniversary of Penn's exoneration by jury) as "Jury Rights Day".
At this point, then, FIJA's first objective--universal citizen awareness of jury veto power--appears to be achievable. In fact, FIJA National no longer even pretends to be in control of the rate at which that information is spreading. People phoning 1-800-TEL-JURY are asked to tell how they heard about FIJA, and the answers range from "We've been discussing the concept of jury nullification in law school..." to "I found a worn-out copy of your 'True or False?' brochure on the wash stand in the courthouse men's room".
Over 1000 news and magazine articles about FIJA have appeared, and like the brochures, they are a mixed bag, ranging from calls to action the scruffiest of underground patriot newsletters to sophisticated coverage in nationally renowned papers like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and USA Today, as well as analyses in legal periodicals such as the American Bar Association's Litigation News and ABA Journal.
FIJA now has a small assortment of audio and video Public Service Announcements in circulation. A few "nullification" plots have been used in popular TV law shows. INTERNET is constantly loaded with information about FIJA. And FIJA HQ supplies everything from bumper stickers to tape libraries to those on its 4000-person mailing list, spread over the 50 states, DC, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
By far the most effective of FIJA's educational efforts has been the practice of leafleting at the nation's courthouses, at all levels, wherever jury trials are being held, and especially on jury selection days. This strategy has attracted great grass roots participation, because it requires only about an hour's time, standing outside the local courthouse, one morning a week (usually Mondays, from just before 8 am to just after 9). At some of the larger courthouses, up to 1000 flyers can be handed out--to people very anxious to see them--in a single morning.
As of this writing, leafleting has already built a good (but not by any means perfect) track record, based mostly upon jurors who've taken the initiative to call the contact number on literature they've received, though the rapidly growing number of acquittals has recently inspired FIJA to undertake follow-up interviews with jurors after their verdict is in, to find out for certain if the literature given them had any effect.
FIJA activists have recently been concentrating on reaching potential jurors in the most notorious, or at least the most absurd, criminal trials in the nation. Chances of getting good publicity at such trials are always greater, and chances of sending a truly public-interest message to the government about a particular law are thereby maximized.
Meanwhile, circumstantial evidence that informing jurors of their power is "working" to restore justice in the courtroom is mounting. FIJA activists put out 50,000 pieces of literature in advance of the Randy Weaver murder trial in Boise, Idaho; at the Kay Bailey Hutchison "Hatch Act" charade in Ft. Worth, Texas; at the Branch Davidians' trial in San Antonio, Texas; at the "assisted suicide" trial of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in Detroit; at the murder trial of Ellie Nessler in Angel's Camp, California; and at many other, less notorious trials. Most of these cases resulted in acquittals, or conviction on charges lower than what the prosecution alleged.
Most recently, FIJA of New Mexico surrounded the federal courthouse in Albuquerque, to make sure that absolutely everyone entering had access to a FIJA brochure, tabloid, or at least a postcard explaining jury veto power. Inside, months after a full-scale armed raid of his office by an FDA SWAT team, businessman Rodger Sless was facing FDA charges that he had been marketing an "unapproved substance", namely an anti-aging pro-vitamin called GH3. It's been used since the 40's all over the rest of the world, where it is sold over the counter, as it also is in Nevada.
Compelled to leaflet this trial by virtue of its victimless, political nature and downright absurdity, the activists were jubilant when Rodger Sless was acquitted a few days later of 11 of 15 counts, with the remaining four later dismissed because the jury had been 11 - 1 in favor of acquittal. Rodger was fortunate to have chosen Nancy Lord to defend him, because she skillfully informed the jury of its tremendous power and responsibility, and managed to do so without being cited for contempt. Her remarks jibed perfectly with what several jurors had already learned from reading FIJA material, and the rest is history.
But an even bigger surprise was in store. It turned out that nine members of the Aguirre family were simultaneously on trial with Sless, in a different courtroom of the same building. Arrested for importing and distributing about 100,000 pounds of marijuana over a period of years, the government was shocked when the jury hung about evenly on six defendants, and completely acquitted the other three. The press even remarked about how that verdict left a bunch of marshals standing at the rear of the courtroom, unable to find any use for the handcuffs and shackles they'd brought along, because no one was taken back into custody.
Aguirre jury forewoman Mara Taub reported to us that, no doubt about it, those were "nullification verdicts", at least partly inspired by the materials she and fellow jurors had received. And she expects to lead the charge to educate the next round of jurors when six of the family members face retrial.
She may face a distressing situation, one that FIJA has learned to expect. The next round of jurors is likely to be hand-picked to suit the government, using every device available, one of the favorites being jury selection by the judge, not the attorneys. But even if the attorneys are allowed to do the choosing, the voir dire process has nowadays degenerated into a high-stakes, high-paying jury-stacking contest, and the next jury may therefore be less receptive than the first.
But the trend which is probably most detrimental to establishing the feeling of independent power and responsibility that a jury needs in order to question the law itself is the for judges to give such detailed and lengthy jury "instructions" that the jurors--as in Span--feel they have "no choice". A number of judges have denounced FIJA literature and logic in and out of the courtroom, and some have gone so far as to have leafleters arrested on charges of jury tampering or contempt of court.
So far, most of the "tampering" charges have been dropped well before trial, because to make them stick, the prosecution would have to show and explain FIJA literature to the alleged tamperer's jury. This would be utterly counterproductive to the effort to keep jurors from finding out about their power, and would open the floor of the courtroom for full debate on the topic of jury nullification, which could in turn make the 6:00 news.
But contempt charges are a different story. They do not entail trial by jury, although appeals are possible (and underway, in several instances). A 1983 Supreme Court decision (US v. Grace) has held that the sidewalk around federal courthouses is a "traditional free speech zone", but whether that will hold up at the state level remains to be seen.
The optimal solution will probably be found in passage of state, then federal laws requiring that jurors be "fully informed", or at least allowing attorneys to so inform them. Such laws should also provide that defendants may explain their motives and circumstances. While four states (Maryland, Georgia, Indiana, and Oregon) have for many decades had constitutional provisions stating that the jury is the judge of both law and fact, none provides that the jury must (or even may) be so told. Several others have a clause among their provisions on free speech and libel which states that in cases of libel, "truth is a defense" and that the jury "shall be the judge of both law and fact, as in other cases." In these states, merely requiring that the court explain to the jury what those provisions mean might do the trick.
Of late, FIJA has become a topic of discussion and debate in the legal literature, both in books and in law review articles. As a result of some excellent constructive criticism therein, the language FIJA has been proposing for legislative bills has recently been amended. The latest version should be both more effective in educating jurors and more palatable to members of the legal community, which has been widely split on the idea of fully informing jurors as standard courtroom procedure.
The main change in wording, which seems to soften opposition from both judges and attorneys, is to provide that the defense team shall have the option of explaining the power of nullification to the jury, rather than requiring the judge to explain it. Judges are already resentful that their discretion has been usurped by having to follow mandatory sentencing guidelines and "three strikes you're out" laws, so another "requirement", even a good one like FIJA, can hardly expect to meet with enthusiasm from the bench. And defense attorneys point out that there are cases where telling the jury about veto power could do their client more harm than good, so they want to be able to choose whether to pursue a "nullification defense" or not. The new FIJA bill language will make its debut in several state legislative sessions in 1995.
As with any reform effort, new problems have come to light during the attempt to resolve the original difficulty. Accordingly, FIJA has developed and prioritized a list of other jury-system reforms which will be necessary for the jury system to function as the nation's founders intended:
 More and more "jurisdictions" are being created by the government, which define offenses that do not "invoke" one's right to trial by jury. When the British did this to the colonists in the 1770's, it led to the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War. FIJA prefers a more peaceful solution--regardless of the jurisdiction, trial by jury must be available to anyone accused of an offense for which conviction could result in a fine exceeding a very small amount of money, or incarceration for even a short time.
 Since December 1, 1992, federal judges have been empowered by law to decide whether civil cases brought by individuals against the government "merit" a jury. FIJA wants to restore adherence to the 7th Amendment, which guarantees the right of trial by jury to any litigant, certainly even when government is the defendant, if the amount in question exceeds $20.
 Most states have now adopted the federal practice of limiting trial by jury in criminal cases to offenses which could entail a sentence of six months or more--and have divided many charges into components, each entailing a maximum sentence of 5 months and 29 days... FIJA wants to restore the 6th Amendment right of the criminally accused to trial by jury, without qualification.
 Most ominously, the Supreme Court has "approved" a practice adopted by two states, Louisiana and Oregon, whereby super majorities (9 out of 12 and 10 out of 12 jurors, respectively) are sufficient to convict persons accused of certain felonies. And most states have gone to six-person juries for misdemeanor cases. FIJA wants to mandate unanimous verdicts, to set the size of the jury by law at twelve persons--and also to limit or eliminate the voir dire process, so that the composition of most juries will more randomly represent the communities from which they are drawn.
 FIJA supports Alexander Hamilton's proposal to provide that all appeals shall be heard by juries, not by the government. "Home field advantage" already goes to the prosecutors in jury trials by virtue of political incentives for judges to cooperate with them in purging the jury of anyone who admits knowing about his power as a juror, or to having qualms with the law. But the government's advantage is further increased when the defendant loses his right to trial by jury on appeal.
In sum, there's plenty to do besides teaching America about jury veto power. But it's a great place to start--to get people excited about the fact that because criminal jury verdicts generally require consensus, even one person can stop an unjust prosection by voting to acquit, and no one, not even the President, can force him or her to vote differently. After that, getting people excited about other infringements of our right to trial by jury should be much easier.
Membership in the FIJA organization is open to everyone--precisely because FIJA feels that "justice is for everyone!" But because so many people do not learn about FIJA until after first being impoverished by the justice system, it remains FIJA's policy to keep membership affordable (although substantial contributions are urgently needed--and are tax deductible). Basic membership is $15 per year, sent to FIJA, P.O. Box 59, Helmville, MT 59843.
Members are sent the FIJActivist, a serious quarterly tabloid full of news, ideas, clippings, and how-to articles--plus a "Jury Power Information Kit" (alias "J-PIK") and a membership card. The J-PIK contains valuable information about what to do if summoned for jury service, or if contemplating trial by jury. Those wanting to learn more about FIJA before joining are urged to call 1-800-TEL-JURY and to record where they want to have their free copy of the J-PIK sent.
Both the J-PIK and every issue of the FIJActivist contain a list of local FIJA contacts and coordinators, most of whom are ready, willing, and able to explain what they're doing, and how to get involved.
So, if you want a large-caliber antidote to democratic fascism, FIJA may be the big silver bullet you've been looking for.