Jury Nullification

April 5, 2003

Copyright © 2003 Ray Tobey

On Wednesday, April 2, I was summoned to jury duty. By my count, this was the fifth time I had been called during the last decade or so. As the judge was listening to the usual excuses, he asked me to speak. I stood up and said this:

"I believe our government is flouting the Constitution, ignoring the U.N. and breaking international law. I cannot quietly participate while I believe my country to be committing an atrocity. I would rather serve time in jail than to cooperate with this government in any way."

From my fellow jurors I heard a gasp and a whispered 'Yesss!'. Shortly afterwards, in a closed court conversation with the judge and the attorneys, I stated that I was committing an act of civil disobedience and refusing to serve on the jury. I had some trouble saying this, as I have never tried to be disobedient before and didn't really know how to do it.

Contempt for the Constitution?

The United States is a signatory to the United Nations Charter. That treaty is designed to prevent war and therefore sets specific rules for collective action. The U.S. lobbied hard in the Security Council for a follow-up to resolution 1441, even submitting forgeries as supporting evidence 1. This second resolution should have met those rules, but when Bush attacked Iraq after withdrawing it, his actions became a violation of international law as embodied in the charter 2. Article VI of the Constitution classifies international treaties as supreme law of the land. Does that make illegal war a high crime or a misdemeanor?

George Bush took an oath to uphold our Constitution, but the war is not his first transgression. When he abrogated the ABM treaty, he did so without consulting Congress, which ratifies such treaties. Thirty-two Representatives sued the Bush Administration over this action 3.

The Administration has also arrested and imprisoned citizens illegally. Jose Padilla has been in solitary confinement since his arrest in Chicago last June 4, but the government does not intend to charge, try or release him. Bush said he is a 'bad guy', and Ashcroft pronounced him an enemy combatant, though Congress had not declared war and Padilla had not engaged in combat. Perhaps he is indeed bad, but the Constitution grants all citizens the right to due process. Dozens of others have been imprisoned under fictitious material witness classifications 5.

For more of the Bush Administration's efforts to undermine the Constitution, look into the Total Information Awareness program 6, Operation TIPS 7, the Patriot Act 8 and upcoming Patriot Act II 9.

What does this have to do with Jury Duty?

Mine was a selfish act. I want the whole Constitution, not just the tattered remnants after the Bush Administration has finished shredding it. As citizens of a republic, it is our obligation to participate in juries and with the rest of government. Granting jury trials for some citizens, but not for others, is insufficient and outrageous. I will follow any lawful order from the judge, but I refuse to take an oath made meaningless by the one so blatantly violated by our President.

Our representatives need to hear our voices. Why would they impeach a president who lies about a sexual affair, then support one who illegally invades another country? Both are violations of an oath, but where are the priorities?

Most importantly, we must VOTE! Less than 25% of the voting age population voted for Bush 10, and the United States population comprises only 4.6% of the world 11. Using a strategy of unilateral pre-emptive war, a man with the support of 0.8% of Earth's population is gambling with the stability of the world, the reputation of the United States and the fate of our children.

Bush claims his intention is to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction and replace rogue regimes with democracy and the rule of law. To pursue this worthy goal through death and destruction while abandoning voting processes and violating our laws, I see only hypocrisy and the cycle of violence.

What happens now?

I await whatever punishment the judge deems necessary. Regardless of his decision, I think I will go to the courthouse soon after the war is over and volunteer for the jury pool. Then I will pray that George Bush does not invade North Korea during my service.