JUROR NULLIFIES JUDGE
TEACHER CHARGED WITH RESPECTING CONSTITUTION
By John Tiffany
Carol Asher, 66, is a former educator and a good Christian. She works as a volunteer assistant to retired Phoenix, Ariz., police officer Jack McLamb and his civil liberties-oriented organization, Police and Military Against the New World Order.
She is a hard worker and a caring person who strives to help others.
As a result, she found herself facing the possibility of serving 14 years in prison. What heinous crime did the onetime schoolteacher commit that would cause the government to consider putting her behind bars for possibly the rest of her life?
Serving on a jury that was hearing the case of a young man charged in an illegal drug case, she stated that she could not vote to convict because she answered to a higher power than the judge, District Judge John Bradbury.
Three other jurors also voted against a conviction, but they were less forward about their beliefs, and they got off scot-free. Ms. Asher, however, was charged with perjury, a felony.
In Idaho, a law requires jurors to sign, under penalty of perjury, that they will decide a case based on the facts and law as determined solely by the judge. What this accomplishes is to render a jury impotent.
“I am a law-abiding citizen, but the only thing I am standing on is either we have a supreme law in this country or we don’t,” Ms. Asher told AFP. “I learned a long time ago from newspapers like The Spotlight and now from American Free Press that we the people have to monitor everything. We have to judge the law to make sure it is in alignment with the supreme law.”
What she found troubling in the case, she said, was the forced search of the company vehicle that was being driven by the young man.
Police reportedly found a small amount of illegal drugs hidden in the car.
“I had a problem with this,” she said. “At no time did the prosecutor prove that this young man knew the drugs were in the car. I had trouble overlooking the Fourth Amendment guarantee against forced searches. That is where my sense of higher law comes in. If it is against the Fourth Amendment I have a problem with that.”
The attack on Ms. Asher goes against the vital principle of jury nullification. Jury nullification occurs when a jury returns a verdict of “not guilty” despite the common belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged. The jury in effect nullifies a law that it believes is immoral, unconstitutional or is wrongly applied to the defendant whose fate it is charged with deciding. Traditionally jurors are free to disregard the judge if they feel he is part of the system of oppression. Jury nullification is an essential protection for citizens against governmental tyranny.
The most famous nullification case is the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger,
charged with printing “seditious libels of the governor of the Colony of New York, William Cosby. Despite the undisputed fact that Zenger had printed the alleged libels, the only issue the court said the jury was open to decide (as the truth or falsity of the statements was said to be “irrelevant”),the jury, feeling that the law itself was unjust, returned with a verdict of “not guilty.”
Carol was charged by Lawrence G. Wasden, the Idaho attorney general, by Stephen A. Bywater, deputy attorney general and chief of the Criminal Division, and by Justin D. Whatcott, deputy attorney general, with felony perjury for doing her duty as a juror. She had been simply following her conscience within the supposed confidentiality of the jury deliberation room.
The fact that she works for an anti-New World Order organization may be an unstated part of the reasons for charging her, but of course prosecutors cannot admit that was a motive on their part.
The matter ended well, in this particular case. Magistrate Michael Griffin ruled that Ms. Asher’s failure to inform the court that she might have a moral problem with voting the way the judge wanted the jurors to vote was not proven to be a willful disruption of justice, and for that reason Griffin dismissed the perjury charge.
But unless the right to a fully informed jury, aware of its power of nullification, is better protected in some way, the next conscientious juror might not be so lucky.
Readers interested in helping Ms. Asher with her legal bills can contact the defense fund that has been set up for her. Write to Carol Asher Defense Fund, HC 11 Box 357, Kamiah, Idaho 83536 or call (208) 935-7852.
(Issue #13, March 27, 2006)