Recent proceedings in the courts of the United States leave grave doubt in the minds of the average American about the health of the criminal justice system in the United States. In the March issue of Spotlight, there appeared a most interesting article: "Courts Check Fully Informed Juries," which seems to be the current situation in Gila County. The article stated:
Jonathan Turley, a professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, remarked in a letter to the Washington Post on the popularity throughout history of jury nullification. He noted in his letter that the White House adopted jury nullification as a last resort during the Clinton impeachment trial in the House.
Paul Grant, an attorney in Parker, Colorado says that jurors' rights was an issue dear to our Founding Fathers: "Our nation's founders complained bitterly that the British were depriving Americans of the benefits of trial by jury, and included that complaint as one of the justifications for independence listed in the Declaration of Independence," Grant said.
"Our Constitution guarantees 'trial by jury', not trial by judges. Anyone who has studied the history of trial by jury can't escape the conclusion that jury rights were demanded, fought for and won by persons who insisted that juries would determine whether the offense charged was even a crime as well as whether the person charged did the deed and should be punished for it.
A poll taken in October 1998 for the National Law Journal shows that many people in the United States agree with this. Three out of four people polled, said they agreed with the statement: "Whatever a judge says the law is, jurors should do what they believe is the right thing."
Grant states that "in the last two centuries judges, lawyers and legislators have come to think that they, not the people, are the ones who determine laws and right."
In our opinion, Edd Dawson, presiding judge in the Haught trial, should have heeded that constitutional demand against jury nullification. Perhaps he should have recused himself altogether, on other grounds.
Jim and Peggy Gray