Free Beer….Today?

Almost seventy seven years ago on December 5th, 1933 the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and Prohibition was abolished in the United States. However the writing was on the wall before that. On April 7, 1933, eight months prior to the official repeal of Prohibition the Cullen-Harrison Bill, permitting the resumption of the manufacture and sale of beer and light wines was passed. This date is often (mistakenly) celebrated as the end of prohibition. However, the real story begins long before even that piece of legislation.

“Because of the high acquittal rate in prohibition cases during the 1920s and early 1930s, prohibition laws could not be enforced. The repeal of these laws is traceable to the refusal of juries to convict those accused [and clearly guilty] of alcohol traffic.”
Alan Scheflin and Jon Van Dyke, Jury Nullification: The Contours of a Controversy, Law and Contemporary Problems 43, No.4, 71 (1980).

We as a people used one of our most powerful rights to end Prohibition long before the government gave up forcing it upon us. This is a power we all have, though few know about it. Today, just speaking about this Right to those who most need to know can result in incarceration. This right is the fact that every juror has the duty to judge not only the facts of the case but also the law that brought the case before them. Judges and prosecutors will deny this right, and have instigated a procedure to separate any possible jurors who know about it, called Voir Dire. The government is afraid of this right and has taken drastic (unconstitutional) actions to limit it as much as they can by forming “special” tax, divorce, custody, social services courts, and secret tribunals. They have also denied the right to a jury trial to all petty offenses, most misdemeanors and some felony charges. However, the right to be judged by our neighbors and have this country’s laws likewise judged remains where it always has; with the people.

The Right for a person to be tried by his peers (neighbors) instead of a government or church official(s) is debatably the most fundamental right of a free person. This right predated our “Bill of Rights”; it was one of the first Rights of an Individual enumerated in the Constitution (Art. III Sec. 2.) It was so important to the founders of this country they enumerated it again in “The Bill of Rights” in two separate amendments (VI, VII.) However, the enumeration of this Right predates even the founding of this country. It was first written about in an ancient Greek play called The Eumenides (500BC), and was undoubtedly the method used by most primitive tribes even before written history, in judging possible morally questionable behavior. The fact that this country is attempting to (unconstitutionally) subvert this right with juror-less trials and tribunals should have the people of this country very worried. The violation of this Right allows the government to harm, or even kill, anyone at anytime for any reason with impunity.

Today I will be deadening the pain of our government’s betrayal of this Right by hefting a few beers at one of our local saloons, which is celebrating the end of Prohibition by giving everyone a free alcoholic beverage. I’ll be the guy explaining to the other patrons that Jurors knowing their Rights and acting upon them is what is allowing them to enjoy their beverage of choice. As you drink your next alcoholic beverage I’d like you to ponder the following quotes about Jury Nullification:

JOHN ADAMS (1771): It’s not only ….(the juror’s) right, but his duty, in that case, to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgement, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.

JOHN JAY (1794): The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1804): Jurors should acquit even against the judge’s instruction….”if exercising their judgement with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction that the charge of the court is wrong.”

SAMUEL CHASE (1804): The jury has the right to determine both the law and the facts.

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES (1920): The jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both the law and the facts.

U.S. vs. DOUGHERTY (1972) [D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals]: The jury has….”unreviewable and irreversible power…to acquit in disregard of the instructions on the law given by the trial judge.”

Much more information, including how this Right of Jury Nullification helped end slavery can be found at The Fully Informed Jury Association website.

Published in: on April 7, 2010 at 8:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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