I have been summoned for jury duty in King County Superior Court. Initially, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to do my duty. Moments later it occurred to me that the court would most likely want me to convict someone of violating unconstitutional laws, like laws criminalizing drugs, sex, guns, etc.
Both as a soldier and as a Councilmember, I swore an oath to defend the Constitution(s). I certainly couldn't live with myself if I violated those oaths or my principles.
I know that some advocate being a "stealth" juror by being secretive about your principles in order to get on a jury and then nullify the law, in accordance with the rights of jurors. While there is some appeal to nullifying unconstitutional laws (See: Fully Informed Jury Association), concealing one's principles strikes me as being deceptive and dishonorable.
After much internal debate, and consulting with my attorney, I emailed the following letter to the King County Superior Court:
January 28, 2009
An Open Letter to the Office of the Jury Supervisor King County Superior Court
I recently received a summons (Juror #101690416) to report for jury duty February 4, 2009. This presents a moral dilemma for me. As a combat veteran, I am always ready to do my duty to uphold and defend liberty. As such, I cannot, in good conscience, permit myself to be used to destroy the very liberty I swore to defend.
As I have these reservations, good faith requires that I make them known in advance of any service as a juror. While the following is not an exhaustive listing, I have endeavored to make it reasonably complete.
I will not convict anyone charged with a victim-less crime, including the manufacture, use, sale, possession, or distribution of substances meant to be ingested, imbibed, injected, or inhaled.
I will not convict anyone accused of violating any law prohibiting, regulating, or restricting consensual sex between adults on private property, or sex-related products and services.
I will not convict anyone charged with a victim-less “gun-crime”. The right to bear arms for defense is absolute.
I will not convict anyone of any crime for which death is a possible penalty. Too many innocent men have been executed. Further, the only reason to execute someone, as opposed to keeping them sequestered until death, is pure vengeance. I do not support acting in vengeance, and I hope that one day humanity can outgrow the desire for vengeance.
I will not convict anyone for using reasonable force (including deadly force) to defend their lives, liberty, or property, or for coming to the aid of someone else's life, liberty, or property.
I will not convict anyone who had their person, papers, or effects searched without their consent and without a warrant having first been issued.
I will not convict anyone whose bail was so excessive that there was no reasonable chance for them to post bail.
I will not convict anyone of breaking any law that appears to be in violation of the US or Washington State Constitutions. In case of any ambiguity, I will always err on the side of greater individual liberty and less government power.
I will not convict anyone who is prevented from making any argument in his defense.
I will not convict anyone who is not permitted to confront the witnesses against him.
I will not convict anyone in any case involving secret evidence.
Just government power derives from the consent of the governed, and I do not consent to aid and abet others in the violation of Americans' civil liberties that I and many fellow veterans before me have fought for.
If the Court, knowing about these reservations, still wants me to serve as a juror, then I will do my duty consistent with the above.
However, serving on February 4th, or anytime close to that would be an undue hardship, as I am a college student, and performing jury duty would very likely require me to drop out of college for the rest of the quarter, thereby wasting the time and money I have already invested in this quarter, and potentially negatively impact my ability to get accepted to a four-year college.
The break between quarters is from March 24 to March 31. I could serve as a juror during that time without any undo hardship. As of this writing, Bellevue Community College does not have the dates posted for the break between spring and summer quarters, but that break would work as well.
Mark A. Taff
I am not sure that the Court will have time to respond prior to the 4th, so I will of course appear before the Court as directed by the summons if the Court does not respond in time.
I will keep you all posted on this, though I am certain the Court will not permit a juror that is unwilling to violate a defendant's rights from serving on a jury.
Jury Duty by Mark A. Taff is licensed
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