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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/28/19

Jury Nullification Thwarts Immigration Tyranny

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The U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Border Patrol are not happy campers. That's because a federal jury, in a clear case of jury nullification, has just put the quietus to federal attempts to incarcerate 37-year-old Arizonian Scott Warren for a large portion of his life.

The federal charge against Warren? Giving water, food, and medical treatment to immigrants who illegally entered the United States by crossing the Arizona desert.

Yes, that's the crime that the feds charged Warren with committing. Oh sure, they call it "harboring" illegal immigrants, but in reality they targeted him for helping illegal immigrants.

Their aim? To send a message, not only to Warren but to everyone else who might be contemplating doing acts of kindness for illegal immigrants: Don't even think of it because we will target you with a federal prosecution and do our best to put you into a federal hoosegow for the next several years of your life.

Enter the jury system, a system that federal officials detest, as manifested by their beloved kangaroo military tribunal system that they have established in Cuba for terrorism prosecutions. No jury trials there. Federal officials would much prefer that federal judges, many of whom are former prosecutors, or military officials decide the guilt or innocence of people they prosecute rather than regular people from the community serving as jurors.

The jury system is one of America's greatest bastions against tyranny. The right of trial by jury is one of the civil liberties that were carved out by British subjects during centuries of resistance to the tyranny of their own government. After the Constitution called the federal government into existence, our ancestors demanded that the right of trial by jury be included in the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, which reads in part as follows: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed."

While federal authorities have succeeded in circumventing this express restriction in terrorism cases, they are still complying with it in other federal criminal offenses, including the "crimes" of transporting, hiring, and harboring illegal immigrants. Such "crimes" are part of the immigration police state that has been brought into existence in the American Southwest in the attempt to enforce America's socialist system of immigration controls.

Once a defendant in a criminal prosecution elects to have his case determined by a jury, there is nothing federal prosecutors and federal judges can do about it. They have no choice: like it or not, they have to impanel a jury to decide the guilt or innocence of the accused.

The jury's verdict is final. If a jury acquits the accused, the judge has no power to overturn the verdict, and federal prosecutors cannot appeal the verdict. The judge is required to release the defendant immediately upon issuance of the verdict. The defendant walks out of the courtroom a free person. That's what makes juries so powerful. They have the final word on whether an accused is guilty or not.

What the role of the judge? He decides procedural and evidentiary issues. Before the jury begins to deliberate, the judge instructs the jury that they must follow his instructions on the law. In a "harboring" prosecution, he provides the jury with the definition of the term "harboring," and he tells the jury that while it decides the facts in the case, it must accept his instructions with respect to the law.

What the judge does not tell the jury is that they actually have the power to judge both the facts and the law. But some juries figure that out on their own. If they conclude, as a matter of individual conscience, that the law is evil, immoral, or tyrannical, it is within their prerogative to acquit the accused even if they are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he did in fact commit the offense.

An acquittal in such a case does not serve as any sort of judicial precedent for other cases, but it does serve as a message to the government that citizen-jurors, as a matter of individual conscience, are not going to participate in the government's evil, immoral, and tyrannical laws by rubber-stamping the prosecution of people who violate such laws.

It is clear that that that is precisely what the jury in the Scott Warren case did. Engaging in "jury nullification," the jury nullified the federal government's "harboring" law by unanimously voting to acquit Scott Warren

Last May, the Border Patrol arrested a Texas woman named Theresa Todd for inviting three young illegal immigrants, one of whom was extremely ill, to get into her car and out of the elements and threatened her with federal criminal charges for "harboring" illegal immigrants.

After the jury's acquittal of Scott Warren, I'll bet that federal prosecutors and the Border Patrol think twice about prosecuting Theresa Todd or any other American citizen who offers water, food, or medical help to illegal immigrants.

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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He (more...)

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