Another Example of the Need for Jury Nullification
Blake Wylie of The Nashville Files has put up an op-ed printed in a local newspaper on the story of Mark Lancaster. Blake has been covering this story because it’s flown under the radar of pretty much anything but local interest. For background, I recommend that you read this post, then proceed to the editorial.
Cases like this are the reason We The People are supposed to have the power of Jury Nullification. WE are supposed to have the power to determine if a law passed by our legislatures is excessive on a case-by-case basis. But that takes power out of the hands of government, and thus it cannot be allowed because we proles might abuse it. True, the power of Jury Nullification – like all powers – is sometimes abused, but that’s our failure. Without it, only the government gets to abuse the law.
Without the power to check it, we all are under threat of overzealous or malicious prosecution of the myriad laws, rules, codes, and statutes that exist, and the thousands more produced every year. Radley Balko wrote in a recent Fox News op-ed:
The federal tax code today covers 17,000 pages and requires over 700 different forms. The IRS estimates Americans spend 5.1 billion hours annually merely preparing their taxes. The Tax Foundation estimates that those wasted hours drain some $194 billion annually from the U.S. economy. All of that comes before Joe Taxpayer forks over his first dime.
The federal criminal code is just as bad. Thomas Jefferson wrote that the U.S. Constitution gave Congress the power to criminally punish “treason, counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States, piracies, and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations, and no other crimes whatsoever.” Yet the federal criminal code today spans some 1,400 pages, and that’s just the “pocket edition.”
The Federal Registry, which records all of the regulations the federal government imposes on businesses (all of which carry the force of law), now exceeds 75,000 pages. The Office of Management and Budget estimates that merely complying with these regulations — that is, paying lawyers to keep educated on them, interpret them and implement them — costs U.S. business another $500 to $600 billion per year.
That’s just the FEDERAL set. Each state has something similar, if not larger.
One more time (this’ll be the fourth, according to Google) I’ll quote Rand:
There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on the guilt. Now that’s the system!
Did Mark Lancaster violate the law? He certainly did. Should he go to jail? Certainly not. But the system says otherwise, and We The People have no power to stop it.