I had a "eureka moment."

Hello all,

I had a "eureka moment." I had it when I recently served jury duty at
the Supreme Court of New York State, which recently relocated to a
recently built skyscraper at 320 Jay Street in Brooklyn. (This immense
edifice houses both the Supreme Court and Family Court. And judging by
its immensity, it must mean there is an awful lot of space for those two
Courts to mete out an awful lot of justice.)

I was sitting in the vast auditorium, known as the "Jury Room," for over
three hours without being called for a "chance" at "voir dire," the
questioning process for selecting jurors, when several persons, "voir
dire rejects" no doubt, returned to the Jury Room. One took a seat in
front of me, so just to break the monotony, I asked this person what
case he came from. He said the defendant was charged with possession of
a weapon.

"Possession of a weapon? What kind of crime is that? The next thing you
know, we'd be charged with possession of a nutcracker or duck tape," I
indignantly said.

"But he had a gun," was the reply.

"Even so, how could it be a crime just to possess a gun," I plaintively
asked.

Then I went into my spiel à la Lysander Spooner about the definition
of a crime as those acts in which a person, with malice, harms another
person or their property. Murder, rape, armed robbery and arson were
examples I gave as "classic crimes." And I added that since a crime
needs a victim and a perpetrator, there is no such thing as a
"victimless crime."

As I ended my "soliloquy," I heard a voice from behind me, "You know, we
were told that the defendant had pointed his gun at someone."

I tuned and asked the person, evidently another "reject" from the same
jury panel, "He pointed his gun at someone? I think that's called
"menacing," which is a real crime, with a real victim and a real
perpetrator! How come he wasn't prosecuted for that?"

The "reject" looked at me with questioning eyes, which also showed
understanding.

I looked around, almost afraid that I might have created a scene, and I
saw some people nodding or shaking their heads. I also saw two or three
persons staring blankly at me as if I were crazy. And then the person on
my right said, "You should have been on that panel." The first "reject"
I first spoke with also agreed, as did the second "reject" behind me..

I laughed as I supposed those "suggestions" were made partly in jest.
But before I responded, we were told to break for lunch. Still, I later
imagined myself being on that jury panel and "socking it to" the
prosecutor by asking those "impertinent" questions and making those
"impertinent" comments. While I probably couldn't acquit the defendant,
I could at least have some fun and spoil the prosecutor's (and judge's)
day.

How?

If I couldn't acquit the defendant, my actions could at least "poison
the well" of the prospective jurors present and those already impaneled,
which could cause delays, maybe even start a mistrial. And my actions
might even suggest strategies for the defense. (Of course I'll never be
selected for the case.)

That was when I had my "eureka moment."

I thought I came up with the makings of "virtual jury nullification"
(VJN). Indeed, that was exactly what I came up with!

I think you can readily understand VJN and see how you can easily
conduct it during voir dire. But if you're concerned that you might be
mistreated by the prosecutor or judge, rest assured. According to the
Trial Juror's Handbook, a booklet given to the jurors, among four "Every
Jurors' Rights" is 1) "Be treated with courtesy and respect at all
times"; 2) "Express concerns,complaints and recommendations to court
personnel [which I suppose includes prosecutors and judges]," 3) "Have
questions answered plainly and clearly." (The fourth is "Remain informed
about the schedule.")

So should you conduct VJN, you're only expressing "concerns" and
"complaints," and asking questions which, as per your rights as a juror,
should be "answered plainly and clearly." Nothing more, nothing less.
And you don't even have to be on a jury panel to conduct VJN; you could
do it in the Jury Room, as I did when I held "court" there.

Very simple idea, yes? Effective?

But, while VJN seems like a good "Plan B" for the "real deal," should
your prefer to try to get on a jury to conduct "actual" jury
nullification, don't let me stop you. And speaking of "actual" jury
nullification, I looked in my juror's handbook to see what it said about
jury nullification.

Unsurprisingly, it said nothing about it. In the section, "What Happens
in a Trial," in the "Jury Instructions" part, it merely gave the
"standard game plan": After the judge explains to the jurors the laws
that apply to the case, he/she then tells the jurors the issues they
have to consider.

Anyhow, I couldn't actually try VJN that day because I was not selected
for any case (the Court employee did tell us it was a slow day) and I
was dismissed after that day. So it will years before I could try VJN.
But if you or anyone else want to try VJN, don't hesitate to do so. I
don't even expect or want you to pay me a "royalty." And you don't even
have to say I told you about it. Indeed, don't even mention my name!

So, if my idea for VJN could delay or set back, however shortly or
slightly, the government's never ending incursion on our freedoms, then
I like to think I made a contribution, however small, to the freedom
movement.

Thanks for reading.

Alton Yee