Most books about the jury system end up discovering it to be an astonishingly successful institution for delivering justice, a bulwark of protection against tyranny, or both.
This is as it should be, because it's the truth. But where other analyses of the jury system leave off, Lehman's book, We, the Jury...The Impact of Jurors on Our Basic Freedoms, begins.
Mr. Lehman has long since satisfied himself as to the value of the jury system for the protection of liberty and delivery of justice; in We, the Jury..., he invites us to go where he went in order to reach this perspective. And that means scrutinizing, with him, some of the most politically crucial jury trials in history.
The result is fast and fascinating reading, which never bogs down in statistics, and never pretends to be a dispassionate analysis, grounded in skepticism. Lehman spends a few sentences discussing what became of his own apprehensions about the jury system, most of the book on unsung heroics by jurors, and the balance illustrating his fears about what special-interest politics, media and modern court procedures have been doing to discredit, emasculate, and now threaten to destroy the institution he so reveres.
Readers are thus treated to engaging and verbatim dialogue from the transcripts of actual trials, such as those of William Penn, John Peter Zenger, Dr. Ossian Sweet, and Susan B. Anthony. The dialogue is artfully connected by an easy-reading, sometimes sardonic, and intermittently humorous narrative that pulls no punches at all, so that a dramatic, entertaining, and persuasive case is made, chapter by chapter, for Lehman's conclusion: that it is the jury's power to "nullify" the law which is in fact responsible for the value which he and most other scholars attribute to the jury system.
What distinguishes this analysis from the pack is that Lehman says it. And after lauding the doctrine of jury nullification, he unabashedly documents that the power of the jurors to acquit on the basis of conscience, even when the evidence against a defendant is clear, is not only a defendant's best weapon against injustice, it is also society's best weapon against the enforcement of arbitrary laws.
Other modern authors simply don't dig that deeply, or they dance gingerly around the issue of jury nullification, even when their analyses lead them right to it. Maybe that's because almost all of them are members of the legal establishment, and don't want to pay the price of heresy by telling it like it really is. Likewise with the issue of jury selection, which has evolved from a procedure to guard against jury stacking into an expensive, counterproductive industryone which Lehman denounces accordingly.
Lehman, who is a historian, not a legal professional, is bound by no vested interest in the status quo. As a result, We, the Jury... is an intellectually honest adventure in ideas, and literal testament to the adage that "information is power". For your own good, don't miss it.
| Larry Dodge, co-founder|
|Fully Informed Jury Association|
This book is dedicated to the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), both to the organization itself and to individual members for their dedication to keeping alive the grand bulwark of all liberty, trial by jury. The primary goal of FIJA is to educate American citizens about their roles as jurors in the survival of the American constitutional republic; members, too numerous to name individually here, have placed their bodies on the firing line to stand against the tyranny in the courtroom that would oppress and destroy this great bulwark.
Out of respect for every citizen who has ever served with honor upon a jury, FIJA has proclaimed September 5 each year since 1991 as National Jury Rights Day. It was on that date in 1670 when twelve English citizens, pulled randomly off the streets of London, succeeded in putting down a panel of judges who had inflicted horrible tortures upon them, to advance eight basic tenets of the American Constitution, including freedoms of religion, speech, and peaceable assembly; protection from arbitrary trial by barring the attaint and ensuring habeas corpus; and establishing the superior power of trials by jury as guaranteed three times in the Constitution, by the Sixth and Seventh Amendments and in the judiciary article. The consciences of the twelve would not allow them to succumb to pressures of the court to convict a youthful Quaker, William Penn, of the "crime" of leading a "dissident" form or worship against the official state religion of Anglicanism. Every one of the jurors stood firmly by his position that: "Every person has a right to worship according to his own conscience," in effect formulating our First Amendment over a century before it was written down.
Although the Penn case is unique in its particulars, it is representative of conscience-driven juries that have served ever since.
Praise for WE THE JURY: THE IMPACT OF JURORS ON OUR BASIC FREEDOMS
"Lehman, who has published articles on juror's rights, is a firm believer in the ability of juries to render impartial verdicts based on their collective conscience. In this engrossing and well-researched study, he details twelve U.S. and English court cases to demonstrate the jury's power to preserve our basic liberties.
"For example, in 1735 a randomly chosen jury agreed with Alexander Hamilton's defense of journalist Peter Zenger against libel charges and affirmed freedom of the press. Minority rights were protected in 1925 when an all-white jury acquitted Ossian Sweet, an African American who had purchased a house in a white neighborhood, of conspiracy; and other jury verdicts advanced the cause of women's sufferage.
"Lehman shows that lawyers who pack juries with biased individuals are interfereing with justice. He argues against the use of jury consultants and charges that requiring perspective jurors to complete lengthy questionnaires not only is an invasion of privacy but also may lead to tainted verdicts."
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