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Author Topic: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature  (Read 7475 times)

Basil Fishbone

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FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« on: January 20, 2011, 04:20:27 pm »

A "FIJA bill" is being introduced in the Montana legislature.  This effort is independent of the FIJA national office, which is unable to be involved in legislative efforts.

Basil


Fwd: I just received word from Bob Wagner that the FIJA bill will be released by the drafters today and should be introduced with a bill number by tomorrow.
 
Here is a "talking points memo" on the bill:
 
--Roger
 

TALKING POINTS MEMO ON THE JURY RIGHTS BILL:

FULLY INFORMED JURIES ARE REQUIRED BY THE MONTANA CONSTITUTION

·         This bill is needed to correct an unconstitutional and illegitimate practice in Montana’s courtrooms.  Although the Montana Constitution requires in Article II, §6  that “[t]he right of trial by jury is secured to all and shall remain inviolate,” juries today are instructed that they may only decide questions of fact.   Judges generally order juries that they must follow the judges’ interpretation of the law and Constitution. 

·         Juries in Montana are regularly deceived by judges.   They are falsely told by judges that they do not have right to acquit a criminal defendant if the government proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  This defies the original purposes behind trial by jury and even conflicts with a Montana Supreme Court decision that held that “the jury has power to disregard the law as declared and acquit the defendant, however convincing the evidence may be, and that the court or judge has no power to punish them for such conduct.” State v. Koch, 33 Mont. 490; 85 P. 272 (Mont. 1906).  The present practice of deception violates the Constitutional “Right to Know,” which protects the right of every Montanan to know the workings and mechanics of state government.  Why would some lawyers and judges acknowledge that jurors have an absolute right to acquit but then argue that jurors should be deceived into thinking they do not have this right?

·         Today in Montana, criminal defendants are not even allowed to argue to the juries that they are innocent on grounds that the laws they are accused of violating are unconstitutional, tyrannical, or oppressive.   This defies the true intent behind the Constitutional right to trial by jury.  Current jury instruction practices also arguably circumvent the Montana Constitution’s  Article II, § 3, which protects the right of all persons to defend their lives and liberties.

·         Most Montanans are shocked to learn that Montana jurors are sometimes told that they may not even look up the Constitution or the laws that a defendant is accused of violating.

·         All of the most famous Founding Fathers, including John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay and James Madison, supported the right of juries to judge both the law and the facts. See www.FIJA.org.

·         Juries are supposed to be independent bodies of citizens who protect their neighbors and members of their community from unfair and oppressive government.  Yet today in Montana jurors are wrongly told that they are mere fact-finders, and that they “must convict” or “should convict” if the government meets its burden of proof.

·         A proper instruction is that juries “must” acquit if the government fails to meet its burden of proof, but that jurors “may” convict if the prosecution meets its burden of proof.  The jury has the eternal right—recognized by all scholarly authorities, including the Montana Supreme Court—to choose not to convict, regardless of the circumstances.

·         The Jury Rights Bill will require that Montana judges fully inform jurors of their absolute right to acquit and of any and all sentencing implications that may arise from their verdicts of guilty.  (This was the common practice in all American courtrooms throughout early American history.)

THE FIJA BILL IS CONSISTENT WITH MONTANA SUPREME COURT PRECEDENT

·         The FIJA Act will codify an existing decision of the Montana Supreme Court regarding trial by jury.  See State v. Koch, 33 Mont. 490; 85 P. 272 (Mont. 1906).  Koch was a murder case in Fergus County in which the defendant admitted under oath in open court that he committed every element of the offense.  Specifically, Koch admitted that he had reentered a bar in Stanford with a rifle and shot the victim after accusing the victim of cheating him in a card game.  (Koch’s defense was that he had no intent to kill).  The trial judge instructed the jury that the jury could find Koch guilty of first degree murder, second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter or voluntary manslaughter, but that the jury could not acquit Koch.  (The jury convicted Koch of voluntary manslaughter.)

·         Upon Koch’s appeal to the Montana Supreme Court, the Attorney General argued that the “admissions of defendant in his testimony are in effect a plea of guilty as to such offense, and the jury could not ignore this evidence.”  The State Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that juries in Montana have an absolute right to acquit a defendant regardless of how insurmountable the evidence of guilt is.

·         Here are the exact words of the Montana Supreme Court:  “It has nevertheless always been recognized in practice in this jurisdiction, that the jury has power to disregard the law as declared and acquit the defendant, however convincing the evidence may be, and that the court or judge has no power to punish them for such conduct.” 33 Mont. 497; 85 P. 274. The FIJA bill closely tracks this language and intent.

·         Rep. Wagner’s FIJA bill will simply codify and elaborate upon the Koch ruling.  This codification should have been done by the Legislature long ago.  Indeed, it is arguable that present statutes in the MCA (which the FIJA Act will repeal and replace) are of suspect constitutionality in light of the Koch decision.[1]

 

THE FIJA BILL IS CONSISTENT WITH THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC PARTY PLATFORMS

·         The Montana Republican Party Platform calls for fully informed juries:  “We recognize both the power and the moral obligation vested in juries to secure justice by judging both the facts of a case and application of the law itself.  We support requiring judges to fully inform jurors of their constitutional rights and responsibilities.”

·         The Montana Democratic Party Platform calls for a fair and equal court system with equal access for all.  Present court procedures are unfair and unequal because the government is treated as a privileged litigant.  For example, Montana prosecutors routinely ask juries to “send a message” by convicting a defendant, while defense attorneys who ask juries to “send a message” by acquitting a defendant are sometimes sanctioned for asking the jury to go outside the facts.  See, e.g., State v. Flynn, 346 Mont. 286; 194 P.3d 694 (Mont. 2008)(allowing prosecutors to ask jurors to go outside the facts and “send a message” to the broader community by convicting a defendant).  The FIJA bill will correct this lopsided, unfair and unequal practice in Montana’s courts.

FACT AND LAW ARE IN MANY CASES NOT CLEARLY DELINIATED 

·         Current Montana statutes purport to reserve all “questions of law” for judges and to allow juries to decide only “questions of fact.”  But such a false bright line is unrealistic in practice.  “Any attempt to draw a rigid line poses a genuine problem because of the very nature of the two concepts. . . .matters of law grow downward into roots of fact, and matters of fact reach upward, without a break, into matters of law.”[2]  Therefore the false bright line which current MCA sections 25-7-102, 26-1-201, and 46-16-103 suggest is unwieldy and oppressive in its implementation.  In practice, attempts by government lawmakers—including judges—to pronounce the existence of such a false bright line and proclaim for themselves the sole power to “decide the law” invariably lead to a usurpation of power by government actors.  The FIJA bill will provide a more realistic statutory framework for describing the constitutional prerogatives of juries in Montana court practice. [3] Even the judges on the Montana Supreme Court occasionally disagree about what is fact and what is law. See, e.g., Wadsworth v. Stat of Montana, 275 Mont. 287; 911 P.2d 1165 (Mont. 1996) (posting rival opinions regarding what is a question of fact and what is a question of law). 



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Indeed, the Koch Court virtually suggested that the precursors of MCA Sections 25-7-102, 26-1-201, and 46-16-103 (which falsely indicate that judges are to be sole determiners of the law and jurors are to follow judges’ orders regarding the interpretation of the law) were likely unconstitutional in some applications.  “We are aware that the legislature has declared (Penal Code, section 2105) that upon the trial for any other offense than libel, questions of law are to be decided by the court and questions of fact by the jury, and that, although the jury have the power to find a general verdict, which includes questions of law as well as of fact, they are, nevertheless, bound to receive as law what is laid down as such by the court.” Koch at 33 Mont. 497; 85 P. 274. “It has nevertheless always been recognized in practice in this jurisdiction, that the jury has power to disregard the law as declared and acquit the defendant, however convincing the evidence may be, and that the court or judge has no power to punish them for such conduct.” Id. 497; 274.

[2] Henry J. Abraham, The Judicial Process (4th ed.) 383 (1981) (quoting John Dickinson, Administrative Justice and the Supremacy of Law 55 (1927).

[3] As Abraham points out, one illustration of the blurry line between law and fact is the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1972 decision in Neil v. Biggers. 409 U.S. 188.  The Cout divided five to three on the question of whether an identification process was constitutionally valid.  The constitutional determination required the justices to bicker over such matters as the time period between the alleged offense and the identification of the defendant, the certainty or lack of certainty of the alleged victim, and the similarity of the defendant to previous descriptions. Id.  One may easily wonder how much “law” and how much “fact” was applied by the rival justices in their ultimate determinations. C.f. Abraham, supra, at 383.  The Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on a wide variety of other issues, such as its convoluted “drug courier profile” Fourth-Amendment cases, so comingle fact with law that the distinction essentially evaporates.
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Basil Fishbone

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2011, 04:23:41 pm »

A "FIJA bill" is also being introduced in New Hampshire.  The General Court is the legislature.

Basil


Fwd: Subject: HB 146 Jury Nullification


This is the current Bill before New Hampshire General Court.


Support can be made by Email to the Chair
of the Judiciary Committee, all of which is online.

Dick



HB 146 – AS INTRODUCED
2011 SESSION
11-0091
09/05
HOUSE BILL 146
AN ACT relative to the right of jury nullification.
SPONSORS: Rep. L. Christiansen, Hills 27
COMMITTEE: Judiciary
ANALYSIS
This bill states that in all criminal proceedings the court shall instruct the jury of its inherent right to judge the law as well as the facts and to nullify any and all actions they find to be unjust. The court is also mandated to permit the defendant or counsel for the defendant to explain this right of jury nullification to the jury.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.
Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]
Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.
11-0091
09/05
STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Eleven
AN ACT relative to the right of jury nullification.
Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:
1 Findings and Intent of the General Court. Under the decisions of both the New Hampshire supreme court and the United States Supreme Court, the jury has an undeniable right to judge both the law and the facts in controversy. The jury system functions at its best when it is fully informed of the jury’s prerogatives. The general court wishes to perpetuate and reiterate the rights of the jury, as ordained under common law and recognized in the American jurisprudence, while preserving the rights of a criminal defendant, as enumerated in part 1, articles 15 and 20, New Hampshire Bill of Rights, and the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution for the United States of America.
2 New Section; Right of Accused; Jury Instruction. Amend RSA 519 by inserting after section 23 the following new section:
519:23-a Right of Accused. In all court proceedings the court shall instruct the jury of its inherent right to judge the law as well as the facts and to nullify any and all actions they find to be unjust. The court is mandated to permit the defendant or counsel for the defendant to explain this right of jury nullification to the jury.
3 Effective Date. This act shall take effect upon its passage.
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Basil Fishbone

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2011, 11:29:21 pm »


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Subject: URGENT! Speakers needed for FIJA bill next Wednesday [Feb. 2]


Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2011 18:47:43 -0700

The FIJA Bill [HB 332] is scheduled for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in Helena at the State Capitol next Wednesday. [Feb.  We need all hands on deck.  It's game time.  We need as many people as we can get in front of the microphone in support of this bill.  Take the day off work and get the word out.  Next Wednesday. Helena.  More details soon.
 
--Roger


Here is the link to HB332

http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/2011/billhtml/HB0332.htm
 
Here are my current talking points.  Everyone feel free to add or subtract from this to suit your own advocacy style:

TALKING POINTS MEMO ON THE JURY RIGHTS BILL, HB332:

FULLY INFORMED JURIES ARE REQUIRED BY THE MONTANA CONSTITUTION

·         This bill is needed to correct unconstitutional and illegitimate practices in Montana’s courtrooms.  Although the Montana Constitution requires in Article II, §6  that “[t]he right of trial by jury is secured to all and shall remain inviolate,” juries today are instructed that they may only decide questions of fact.   Judges generally order juries that they must follow the judges’ interpretation of the law and Constitution. 

·         Juries are supposed to be independent bodies of citizens who protect their neighbors and members of their community from unfair and oppressive government.  Yet today in Montana jurors are falsely told that they are mere fact-finders, and that they “must convict” or “should convict” if the government meets its burden of proof in a criminal case.  Such instructions communicate to jurors that they do not have right to acquit a criminal defendant if the government proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  This defies the original purposes behind trial by jury and even conflicts with a Montana Supreme Court decision that held that “the jury has power to disregard the law as declared and acquit the defendant, however convincing the evidence may be, and that the court or judge has no power to punish them for such conduct.” State v. Koch, 33 Mont. 490; 85 P. 272 (Mont. 1906). 

·         The present practice of deception violates the Constitutional “Right to Know,” which protects the right of every Montanan to know the workings and mechanics of state government.  Why would some lawyers and judges acknowledge that jurors have an absolute right to acquit but then argue that jurors should be deceived into thinking they do not have this right?

·         A proper instruction is that juries “must” acquit if the government fails to meet its burden of proof, but that jurors “may” convict if the prosecution meets its burden of proof.  The jury has the eternal right—recognized by all scholarly authorities, including the Montana Supreme Court—to choose not to convict, regardless of the circumstances.

·         Today in Montana, criminal defendants are not even allowed to argue to the juries that they are innocent on grounds that the laws they are accused of violating are unconstitutional, tyrannical, or oppressive.   This defies the true intent behind the Constitutional right to trial by jury.  Current jury instruction practices also arguably circumvent the Montana Constitution’s  Article II, § 3, which protects the right of all persons to defend their lives and liberties.

·         Most Montanans are shocked to learn that Montana jurors are sometimes told that they may not even look up the Constitution or the laws that a defendant is accused of violating.

·         All of the most famous Founding Fathers, including John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay and James Madison, supported the right of juries to judge both the law and the facts. See www.FIJA.org.

·         The Jury Rights Bill will require that Montana judges fully inform jurors of their absolute right to acquit and of any and all sentencing implications that may arise from their verdicts of guilty.  (This was the common practice in all American courtrooms throughout early American history.)

THE FIJA BILL IS CONSISTENT WITH MONTANA SUPREME COURT PRECEDENT

·         The FIJA Act will codify an existing decision of the Montana Supreme Court regarding trial by jury.  See State v. Koch, 33 Mont. 490; 85 P. 272 (Mont. 1906).  Koch was a murder case in Fergus County in which the defendant admitted under oath in open court that he committed every element of the offense.  Specifically, Koch admitted that he had reentered a bar in Stanford with a rifle and shot the victim after accusing the victim of cheating him in a card game.  (Koch’s defense was that he had no intent to kill).  The trial judge instructed the jury that the jury could find Koch guilty of first degree murder, second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter or voluntary manslaughter, but that the jury could not acquit Koch.  (The jury convicted Koch of voluntary manslaughter.)

·         Upon Koch’s appeal to the Montana Supreme Court, the Attorney General argued that the “admissions of defendant in his testimony are in effect a plea of guilty as to such offense, and the jury could not ignore this evidence.”  The State Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that juries in Montana have an absolute right to acquit a defendant regardless of how insurmountable the evidence of guilt is.  (We don’t know what happened on retrial, but at least the jury was properly instructed.) 

·         Here are the exact words of the Montana Supreme Court:  “It has nevertheless always been recognized in practice in this jurisdiction, that the jury has power to disregard the law as declared and acquit the defendant, however convincing the evidence may be, and that the court or judge has no power to punish them for such conduct.” 33 Mont. 497; 85 P. 274. The FIJA bill closely tracks this language and intent.

·         Rep. Wagner’s FIJA bill will simply codify and elaborate upon the Koch ruling.  This codification should have been done by the Legislature long ago.  Indeed, it is arguable that present statutes in the MCA (which the FIJA Act will repeal and replace) are of suspect constitutionality in light of the Koch decision.[1]

 

THE FIJA BILL IS CONSISTENT WITH THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC PARTY PLATFORMS

·         The Montana Republican Party Platform calls for fully informed juries:  “We recognize both the power and the moral obligation vested in juries to secure justice by judging both the facts of a case and application of the law itself.  We support requiring judges to fully inform jurors of their constitutional rights and responsibilities.”

·         The Montana Democratic Party Platform calls for a fair and equal court system with equal access for all.  Present court procedures are unfair and unequal because the government is treated as a privileged litigant.  For example, Montana prosecutors routinely ask juries to “send a message” by convicting a defendant, while defense attorneys who ask juries to “send a message” by acquitting a defendant are sometimes sanctioned for asking the jury to go outside the facts.  See, e.g., State v. Flynn, 346 Mont. 286; 194 P.3d 694 (Mont. 2008)(allowing prosecutors to ask jurors to go outside the facts and “send a message” to the broader community by convicting a defendant).  The FIJA bill will correct this lopsided, unfair and unequal practice in Montana’s courts.

FACT AND LAW ARE IN MANY CASES NOT CLEARLY DELINIATED 

·         Current Montana statutes purport to reserve all “questions of law” for judges and to allow juries to decide only “questions of fact.”  But such a false bright line is unrealistic in practice.  “Any attempt to draw a rigid line poses a genuine problem because of the very nature of the two concepts. . . .matters of law grow downward into roots of fact, and matters of fact reach upward, without a break, into matters of law.”[2]  Therefore the false bright line which current MCA sections 25-7-102, 26-1-201, and 46-16-103 suggest is unwieldy and oppressive in its implementation.  In practice, attempts by government lawmakers—including judges—to pronounce the existence of such a false bright line and proclaim for themselves the sole power to “decide the law” invariably lead to a usurpation of power by government actors.  The FIJA bill will provide a more realistic statutory framework for describing the constitutional prerogatives of juries in Montana court practice. [3] Even the judges on the Montana Supreme Court occasionally disagree about what is fact and what is law. See, e.g., Wadsworth v. State of Montana, 275 Mont. 287; 911 P.2d 1165 (Mont. 1996) (posting rival opinions regarding what is a question of fact and what is a question of law). 

THE FIJA BILL WILL:

·         Make it clear that jurors may never be punished for, or excluded from jury service, for knowing about or exercising their constitutional prerogative to scrutinize and nullify the law.

·         Make it clear that parties may argue to jurors that a law is unconstitutional, unconstitutional as applied, or should be nullified for any other reason.

·         Require that judges in criminal jury trials must inform jurors that the jurors may vote their conscience to acquit an accused in spite of technical guilt—as is consistent with settled Montana Supreme Court precedent (see State v. Koch, supra).

·         Recognize that jurors may read the Constitution and other laws in order to decide their verdicts.

·         Require that jurors be informed of the sentencing ramifications of their verdicts.   

PLEASE SUPPORT THE FULLY INFORMED JURY ACT BILL, HB332!



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Indeed, the Koch Court virtually suggested that the precursors of MCA Sections 25-7-102, 26-1-201, and 46-16-103 (which falsely indicate that judges are to be sole determiners of the law and jurors are to follow judges’ orders regarding the interpretation of the law) were likely unconstitutional in some applications.  “We are aware that the legislature has declared (Penal Code, section 2105) that upon the trial for any other offense than libel, questions of law are to be decided by the court and questions of fact by the jury, and that, although the jury have the power to find a general verdict, which includes questions of law as well as of fact, they are, nevertheless, bound to receive as law what is laid down as such by the court.” Koch at 33 Mont. 497; 85 P. 274. “It has nevertheless always been recognized in practice in this jurisdiction, that the jury has power to disregard the law as declared and acquit the defendant, however convincing the evidence may be, and that the court or judge has no power to punish them for such conduct.” Id. 497; 274.

[2] Henry J. Abraham, The Judicial Process (4th ed.) 383 (1981) (quoting John Dickinson, Administrative Justice and the Supremacy of Law 55 (1927).

[3] As Abraham points out, one illustration of the blurry line between law and fact is the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1972 decision in Neil v. Biggers. 409 U.S. 188.  The Cout divided five to three on the question of whether an identification process was constitutionally valid.  The constitutional determination required the justices to bicker over such matters as the time period between the alleged offense and the identification of the defendant, the certainty or lack of certainty of the alleged victim, and the similarity of the defendant to previous descriptions. Id.  One may easily wonder how much “law” and how much “fact” was applied by the rival justices in their ultimate determinations. C.f. Abraham, supra, at 383.  The Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on a wide variety of other issues, such as its convoluted “drug courier profile” Fourth-Amendment cases, so comingle fact with law that the distinction essentially evaporates.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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Basil Fishbone

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2011, 08:36:48 pm »

Fwd: (from Roger)  The House Judiciary Hearing on the FIJA bill is 8:00 a.m. next Wednesday morning in room 137 of the State Capitol.  I know this is a tough time slot, but we need to get as many people to Helena to support this bill as we can.  Numbers in front of the microphones matter.  Let me know if anyone can arrange carpooling from north, south, east or west.
 
Also, the Judiciary Committee are as follows.  Everyone is urged to contact these people in the most polite way possible:
 
Chair: Ken Peterson (R-Billings)
Vice Chair: Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel)
Vice Chair: Diane Sands (D-Missoula)
Liz Bangerter (R-Helena)
Robyn Driscoll (D-Billings)
Kristin Hansen (R-Havre)
Bill Harris (R-Mosby)
Ellie Boldman Hill (D-Missoula)
David Howard (R-Park City)
Cleve Loney (R-Great Falls)
Margaret MacDonald (D-Billings)
Mike Menahan (D-Helena)
Michael More (R-Gallatin Gateway)
Jesse O'Hara (R-Great Falls)
Carolyn Pease-Lopez (D-Billings)
Joe Read (R-Ronan)
Keith Regier (R-Kalispell)
Dan Skattum (R-Livingston)
Bob Wagner (R-Harrison)
Wendy Warburton (R-Havre)
Staff: David Niss, 406-444-4410
Secretary: Karen Armstrong, 406-444-4607
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gaurdduck

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2011, 02:23:48 am »

Congrats to ff.  :mellow:

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Basil Fishbone

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2011, 10:48:10 pm »

Fwd: HB 332, Informed Juries, tomorrow


Dear MSSA Friends,

The House Judiciary will conduct a public hearing tomorrow (Wednesday) on HB 332, to restore the right of a fully informed jury.

The message I sent to Committee members in support of HB 332 is pasted below, just FYI.

Some say this may be the most important bill of the session.  Hard to argue with that.  MSSA has long supported informed juries.

Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.mtpublish.com
=======================

Dear House Judiciary Committee Member,

We know that jurors cannot be punished for a vote cast in the secrecy of the jury room.  Therefore, there is no question that jurors have the power to judge laws, to vote to acquit if the juror disapproves of the law being applied.

The only remaining question is whether or not jurors may be informed that they have this unquestioned power.

What benefit is there to keeping any citizen ignorant of such essential truths of civics?

Thank you for supporting HB 332.

Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association

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Basil Fishbone

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2011, 09:54:05 pm »

http://missoulian.com/news/local/article_6d7f2524-348b-11e0-8caa-001cc4c002e0.html
 
 
Legislature hears testimony on bill allowing jurors to judge laws in deciding verdicts
By GWEN FLORIO of the Missoulian missoulian.com | Posted: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 1:11 pm | (14) Comments

HELENA - Testimony on a bill specifying that juries can judge laws as well as defendants painted its possible effects in dire terms Wednesday, calling it either one more check on an imperfect legal system capable of destroying lives - or something with the potential to destroy the very rule of law.
"Trial by jury has been under attack for decades. Judges have attempted to suppress the power of the jury," said Don Doig, one of the founders of the Helena-based national Fully Informed Jury Association.

But John Sullivan, representing the Montana Defense Trial Lawyers Association, said such a law "would wreak havoc with the litigation system and the respect we are supposed to have for the rule of law."

For more than an hour Wednesday morning, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on both sides of the bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Wagner, R-Harrison. House Bill 332 would, among other things, require judges to inform jurors that they "may vote their conscience to acquit an accused in spite of technical guilt."  ...<snip>...
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Basil Fishbone

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2011, 09:45:37 pm »

Everyone:
 
I've received word from Rep. Wagner that HB 332 will go to a final vote as amended on Friday morning at 8:00 a.m.  This gives us one day to make the final push for liberty.  Again, the contact info for the committee is below.  If you know any of these people personally, it is time to call or email them.  I do not know the final amendments, as they are not yet posted on the official  website.  http://laws.leg.mt.gov/laws11/LAW0203W$BSRV.ActionQuery?P_BLTP_BILL_TYP_CD=HB&P_BILL_NO=332&P_BILL_DFT_NO=&P_CHPT_NO=&Z_ACTION=Find&P_SBJ_DESCR=&P_SBJT_SBJ_CD=&P_LST_NM1=&P_ENTY_ID_SEQ=
 
Mike Fellows, State FIJA contact and Chairman of the Montana Libertarian Party, has indicated that Monday is the last day for a bill to be released from the committee, so we are right up against the wire.  Also, anyone who can make it up to Helena on Friday morning is urged to get there.  Rep. Wagner told me that it sometimes makes a difference when there are lots of supporters in attendence.  (There will be no opportunity for public comment.)   I will try to be there and can pick anyone up in the Livingston/Bozeman/Three Forks/Townsend area early Friday morning (like 5 or 6 a.m.). 
 
We often hear gripes about the totality of our plight and the seeming insurmountability of the unconstitutional police state that is enveloping us.  Here is a bill that will strike a major blow toward restoring constitutional government with one stroke of a pen.
 
We have only 30 hours.  If ever there were a time to set aside a minute or two and make a phone call, now is that time.  If we get this bill passed this session and signed by Governor Schweitzer, Montanans will be a hundred times more free the next morning.
 
It's game time.
--Roger
 
The House Judiciary Committee
 
 Liz Bangerter (R) (406) 442-6071, liz@lizb4house.com
Robyn Driscoll (D) (406) 534-4874, rdriscoll@peoplepc.com
Kris Hansen (R) (406) 461-2456, krishansen33@gmail.com
Bill Harris (R) (406) 429-2900, (406) 366-6775, bharris@midrivers.com
Ellie Hill (D) (406) 218-9608, elliehillhd94@gmail.com
David howard (R) (406) 633-2762, (406) 633-2765, d.howard@usadig.com
Krayton Kerns, (R) (406) 697-6449, krayton@kraytonkerns.org
Cleve Loney (R) (406) 761-4144, (406) 788-8053, cloney@q.com
Margaret MacDonald (D) (406) 698-4917, macmargaret@gmail.com
Mike Menahan (D) 406) 443-3759, mikemenahan@yahoo.com
Mike More (R) (406) 763-5513, mp_more@yahoo.com
jesse O'Hara (R) (406) 781-3333, (406) 761-0088, jesse59404@yahoo.com
Carolyn Pease-Lopez (D) (406) 245-2265, cpease-lopez-hd42@mt.gov
Ken Petersen (Committee chair) (R) (406) 591-2608, kenneth59@bresnan.net
Joe Read (R) (406) 676-0200, (406) 253-1130, jrdemob@yahoo.com
Keith Regier (R) (406) 756-6141, kregier@centurytel.net
Diane Sands, (D) (406) 251-2001, (406) 728-3476, repdianesands@gmail.com
Dan Skattum (R) (406) 223-0545, skattumd@wispwest.net
Bob Wagner (R) (sponser of the bill) (406) 287-5343, bobwagner4leg@yahoo.com
Wendy Warburton (R) (no phone)  wendywarburton@gmail.com

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2011 20:32:22 -0500


The problem is that most bills have to be out of committee by Monday so the bills can be voted on in the house floor. The transmittal date is coming up (I don't have the date off hand) and any bill still in committee except revenue bills, will be dead.

Mike


Sent: Wed, Feb 16, 2011 1:38 pm
Subject: RE: HB 332 Fully Informed Jury Bill Let's all get behind it for the next big push

Fwd:  Everyone:
 
We need all hands on deck at the State Legislature this week.  The most important bill of the session, the Fully Informed Jury Bill, is before the House Judiciary Committee for an impending vote.
I spoke to Rep. Bob Wagner this morning (who is copied on this email).  HB 332 is currently being amended, which will delay the vote on HB 332 until (I guess) next week some time.  Let's all get behind this bill and help gently and respectfully contact the Committee members to support the bill.  Remember, we need eleven (11) votes.  Democrats count too, so let's really sell it to them.  The bill will not get Governor Schweitzer's signature if it gets packaged as a Republican bill.
 
below are the Judiciary members, with phone numbers and email contacts.  It's game time.  All hands on deck.

-----------------------------------

Here are the most recent comments I sent to the Montana House Judiciary committee.  I also testified in person.  Basil


Dear Representative:

I urge you to please support HB 332, the Fully Informed Jury bill.  This is the traditional power of the jury, and it has long been used to protect the rights of minorities against the passions and prejudices of the majority (as reflected in ill-advised laws), and against the injustices of ambitious prosecutors. 

The defendant in a criminal case has a due process right to an informed jury standing ready to vote their conscience in pursuit of justice.  (But if the defendant prefers, he or she can specify a judge trial rather than a jury trial.) As always, a verdict of guilty can  be challenged and overturned, but a not guilty verdict is final and may not be appealed.  It is one of the fundamental protections of our rights.

The power of the independent jury to vote not guilty regardless of the law is the only real power the people have in our system of government.  It is wrong for the court system to attempt to suppress the conscientious jury, but that is what has been happening.  HB 332 would remedy it.

Thank you.
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freewoman

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2011, 08:44:14 am »

Any word on the vote? 
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Basil Fishbone

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2011, 09:13:34 am »

The committee is supposed to vote tomorrow.
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Basil Fishbone

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2011, 12:31:26 pm »

Everyone:
 
Very sad news at the House Judiciary Committee this morning.  HB 332, the fully informed jury bill, has been tabled and is now dead.  Our courageous representative Bob Wagner was told by another member of the committee that she might vote for the bill if it were amended slightly, so Bob (and others) worked to amend it.  The amendment was introduced, and Miss Kris Hansen changed her mind and said she would not support it even with amendments.  Then Democratic Rep. Mike Menahan said the amendment and the bill were both "ridiculous."  A vote was taken on whether to approve the amendment.  It was five to 15 against, with only 5 courageous heroic representatives (Wagner, Keith Regier, Krayton Kerns, Wendy Warburton, and Dan Skattum) voting for it.  Numerous legislators surprised me by voting no (Bill Harris, Mike More, Joe Read, Kristin Hansen, etc.). 
 
Upon losing the vote to amend, Wagner moved to table the bill, hoping to either rewrite proposed amendments or otherwise come up with another option.  But the Executive Action hearing was drawing to a close within another 2 hours, and there was no time.   Because there will be no further hearings of the House Judiciary Committee before the transmission deadline, the bill is dead for this session.  We will have to redraft and reintroduce it in 2 years.
 
Thanks for everyone who helped out on this noble effort.  We clearly need to do more education and outreach, as there is a lot of ignorance regarding this subject out there. 
 
Let's all prepare for a renewed push for the 2013 session.  We must primary every no voter, prep candidates from all political parties in advance, get the word out among everyone who shows any interest, and spread lots of jury information around.
 
The bill is dead.  Long live the bill.
 
Many thanks to Bob Wagner as well as Warburton, Regier, Skattum and Kerns.
 
--Roger Roots
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gaurdduck

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2011, 04:18:41 am »

That's too bad...
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Speaker

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2012, 05:40:49 am »

Cross-post from:
< https://thementalmilitia.com/forums/index.php?topic=31928.msg397452#new >.

Gooch asked for a FIJA sorta-kinda bill, so I posted one above.

I am not the slightest bit surprised at the behavior of the legislators in Helena. They did what they always do. Lie, betray and attack.

Mine is not a bill, nor is it as nice as I should like at this time. But it does not need any support from any politician. Just the electors.



All the Best,
Speaker
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Basil Fishbone

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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2012, 12:42:09 am »

Montana Representative Jerry O'Neil is introducing this legislation:

Quote
I have requested LC 1449, to be known as the "Larry Dodge Fully Informed Jury Act of 2013" to "revise jury instruction laws". It will request Montana follow New Hampshire by passing a law stating:

"Right of Accused. In all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defense to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy."

Here is alternate language written by Roger Roots:

Quote
"In all criminal jury trials, the court shall instruct the jury of its inherent power to judge the law as well as the facts and to protect people from unjust prosecutions. No judge or other officer of the court may prevent or restrict jurors from being provided or receiving information from the defendant or defense counsel about the propriety of the application of the law as well as the facts.  Denial or obstruction of this provision is reversible error."
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Re: FIJA bill being introduced in the Montana legislature
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2012, 09:02:04 am »

You might make Montana so darn attractive that more of us have to move there.  Jostling, teeming masses of libertarians would be your fault then.  Can you live with that on your conscience?
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