Future Jury Nullification for Bitcoin Users

Plaque commemorating an act of jury nullification in the Old Bailey, London.


With everything going on in the world today, it seems likely that state-level attacks against Bitcoiners will continue to increase. Additionally, as bitcoin puts pressure on traditional power structures, authorities will almost certainly expand or enact impermissible laws to restrict, tax, or otherwise impede the free flow of bitcoin capital.

Eventually, a Bitcoiner is likely to end up on a jury and asked to sit on trial of another Bitcoiner accused of violating one of these unjust laws. I argue that all Bitcoiners should at least have heard of jury nullification in advance as part of their toolkit to help resist, at the last possible moment, state laws and actions. which most Bitcoiners would consider unethical.

What is jury nullification?

Jury nullification is a consequence of a fair and impartial jury system. Simply put, it is the power of a criminal jury to return a verdict of not guilty, even if the prosecution meets the legal burden of a guilty verdict. This often stems from changes in the moral compass of society, for example, when an act is no longer considered criminal by today’s standards. This is not, one might say, an explicit right of the jury, but rather a necessary logical consequence of any system which purports to maintain a fair and impartial jury.

The United States Supreme Court has stated that “although a judge may order a verdict for the accused if the evidence is legally insufficient to establish his guilt, he cannot order a verdict for the state, even if the evidence is overwhelming. In other words, if the jury returns a verdict of guilty that the judge deems unjust and unjustified, the judge can set aside the verdict and let the accused go, but in any event, the judge cannot set aside a verdict of not guilty and find an accused guilty. As soon as a judge has the power to convict in favor of the state in a criminal trial, the purpose of juries ceases to exist, except as mere window dressing—a status the Constitution will not permit.[T]judge cannot order a verdict”, and that “the jury has the power to return a verdict on the law and the facts … the technical law, if it can be called that, to decide against the law and the facts.”

Historically, one of the most significant cases of jury nullification was the trial of William Penn and William Mead. Set in 1670s England, the pair have been accused of preaching to an illegal assembly. When the jurors attempted to find them not guilty by jury nullification, they were thrown in jail, threatened, starved for two days, and then, when they failed to comply with the judge’s will, sentenced to a fined and jailed until they could pay the fines (for some of them that meant months in jail). This example is so important in history, in fact, that it is commemorated in a plaque that hangs in the Old Bailey. This case, and others like it in the 17th and 18th centuries, played a pivotal role in the rights to a jury trial enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

In the United States, the jury nullification also left a long and significant mark on our country. The framers of the Constitution were well aware of the power of the jury and the inevitability of the power of nullification when they enshrined the right to a jury trial in the Bill of Rights. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson believed that he remained the last check on unwarranted state power. It was used in the pre-Civil War era by Northern juries to refuse to convict abolitionists for violating the Fugitive Slave Act, and later during Prohibition it was used to thwart slave laws. alcohol control. Of course, it has also been similarly used by racist juries to deny a conviction for crimes such as lynchings. But overall, the cancellation was used in a way that would be understandable and still seen as positive today.

Today, courts and the legal system strongly discourage jury nullification at every turn. The belief is that the ability of a jury to overturn a law by returning a verdict of not guilty even in the face of indisputable facts is a decidedly negative side effect of the constitutional guarantee of trial by jury. The system goes to extreme lengths to ensure that a jury is as far in the dark as possible about this power, even falsely telling a jury, “There is no valid nullification by a jury.” , and that he would “violate [their] oath and the law if you have deliberately given a verdict against the law[,]when the jury explicitly asked the judge about the nullification. Defense attorneys cannot directly ask the jury to nullify. Even the distribution of jury nullification pamphlets on the courthouse grounds resulted in arresting people for jury tampering.

Why Jury Nullification Matters to Bitcoiners Now

As mentioned in the introduction, this is a power of juries that not only will you be unaware of if you are on a jury, but that the system will actively oppose allowing you to exercise. Therefore, it is imperative that all Bitcoiners at least know that it exists, and that they cannot be punished in court for exercising it. The court and judge may even lie to you about the power of the jury to vacate.

Moreover, if you want to survive jury selection, and do so honestly, you must consider how to answer the questions that will be put to you, under oath, during see say (the technical name of the jury selection process). If you come out and say, “I believe in jury nullification,” you’ll almost certainly be kicked out of the jury. Alternatively, if you lie, you would be committing perjury. However, upon careful consideration, many questions put to you may be answered honestly in a way that does not clearly show that you understand that jury nullification is a power that you possess as a juror.

I believe that in the near future, the need for jury nullification will come to the fore again as our federal and state governments attempt to attack, restrict, and control the transactional freedom Bitcoin provides. It could be oppressive KYC laws, senseless travel rule enforcement, punitive taxation, just an outright ban and/or confiscation like Executive Order 6102, or a new hell not yet conceived. While we don’t yet know what avenues they will take in an attempt to reaffirm their state of unethical and immoral surveillance over Bitcoin, it is imperative that all Bitcoiners understand that they are each, and individually, not just protecting the sanctity of the time warp, but they are also the last line of defense of transactional freedom.

This is a guest post by Colin Crossman. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or bitcoin magazine.