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Samizdata quote of the day

This has long been an aim of a certain type of authoritarian, to abolish juries in criminal trials. After all, how can the authorities jug those they dislike if juries won’t convict people merely of being someone the authorities don’t like?

This actually being the entire point of juries from their beginning. The King doesn’t get to jug just anyone he doesn’t like. There must be a crime, on the books, which someone is convicted of. And the jury is there to agree that what is being convicted of happened, it was ‘ee wot dun it, and that it should be a crime to be punished. It’s that last bit which is the protection of freedom – jury nullification as we’re not supposed to mention in the English courts.

Tim Worstall

12 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Crosbie

    Worstall is writing in the context of a proposal for ‘jury free’ sex crime courts in Scotland. Isn’t it a bit fanciful to think the head of a Scottish government would use sex crime allegations to fit up a political opponent?

  • bobby b

    In the US, the standard used to be (roughly) if you can lose your liberty through the state’s prosecution, you get a jury. In the US Constitution, Article III, Section 2 (“The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury”) and the Sixth Amendment (“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury”) defined this right.

    Then it got watered down by the USSC to, if you can lose your liberty for more than six months, you got a jury. (They got tired of empaneling juries for petty crimes. Too many crimes, not enough time.)

    That was moderated down a bit when it was decided that, if the amount of incarceration plus any fines and other penalties were sufficient to make the punishment “serious”, you got a jury. “Serious” has been subject to changing definitions, of course. The six-month incarceration threshold remained – but if a prosecutor wanted to fine you $10,000 or take your house in addition to some short jail time, it might still be “serious.”

    As we switch more and more away from the true courts into administrative actions by agencies, the right to a jury gets more and more tenuous. But if someone were to suggest that, here in the US, one could be tried for rape without a right to a jury, I doubt they’d get far.

    (Of course, I thought Trump was going to win, too.)

  • Flubber

    I watched the mini series Chernobyl the other day, and it was brilliant in capturing the flavour of a communist state.

    The political show trial at the end was quite enlightening is a little theatrical in its portrayal.

    But watching it, it struck me that it was a kind of portent of things to come.

  • pete

    I suspect that the push for jury free trials is largely driven by campaigners who tell us that the conviction rate for rape is too low.

    They’ll have an acceptable conviction rate in mind, and it’s probably very close to 100%.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Don’t forget the other side of the coin: it’s much easier for the politically connected to be acquitted in bench trials.

    That’s been a commonplace in Chicago for generations.

  • NCC

    “jug just anyone he doesn’t like”

    Too good to check.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Not necessarily. Singapore does not have jury trials. And there’s been rather few complaints, because our law-and-justice system is also generally competent and non-corrupt.

    There’s been political cases, of course, which stand out all the more for their lack of fairness.

    Finally, most people, especially employers, will regard jury duty as a serious waste of time. We are especially beholden to the might of money.

  • Paul Marks

    bobby b.

    As you know – Civil Asset Forfeiture (an unconstitutional abomination – APPROVED by the Supreme Court long ago) bypasses jury trials. If they can take your home (and so on) then they can destroy you. True some States have banned it – but the Feds have it (and many other despicable practices – the Federal “Justice” system is not a Justice system, it is Despotism).

    Juries can be corrupt, as in the farcical “trial” of Roger Stone, but no jury is vastly worse.

    The end of trial by jury – which, yes, is the trial of the “facts of the case” and THE LAW ITSELF – is terrible.

    In the United States beware the vile practices of the “Family Courts” (which violate all the principles of the Common Law) spreading into parts of the system.

    To return to the Federal “Justice” system……

    Senator Mike Lee has proposed that a least a few of the basic principles of the Common Law be applied to the Federal “Justice” system, the fact that his proposal is regarded as a nonstarter shows how bad things have got.

  • Isn’t it a bit fanciful to think the head of a Scottish government would use sex crime allegations to fit up a political opponent? (Crosbie, March 19, 2021 at 7:50 pm)


    That is indeed just what the current Scottish government do fancy. I mean, just look at what kind of problems one can get into over a simple framing of an ex-leader – and not that likeable, chivalrous or even unhandsy an ex-leader at that – if the process lets a jury get involved!

  • JohnK


    Yes, clearly the jury in the trial of Alec Salmond gave the “wrong” verdict, which has caused considerable trouble for the SNP nomenklatura who were trying to frame him. Clearly the answer is to abolish juries who may produce verdicts which the political establishment finds unhelpful.

    Advance Caledonia, into the broad, sunlit uplands of a one party national socialist state!

  • Advance Caledonia, into the broad, sunlit uplands of a one party national socialist state! (JohnK, March 22, 2021 at 11:42 am)

    They are managing to annoy their own supporters somewhat.

    Every Yes supporter in Scotland dreamed of having our own Mandela to lead us to freedom. Unfortunately, we wanted Nelson but we got Winnie instead.

    The comments on this fanatically scotnat site are something to behold – and while these people have a ton to learn about what politics makes tyranny less likely and what, on the contrary, invites it, it is clear some were natz by vote but not by foreseen and intended destination.

  • JohnK


    The dismay of some SNP supporters over this sleazy affair is indeed heartening. A one eyed Albanian can see that the party establishment was out to get Alex Salmond, and that the “verdict” of the “independent” lawyer that Nicola Sturgeon did nothing wrong is a whitewash.

    Sadly, they still seem to support the dream of Scottish “independence” without realising that it can only come via an authoritarian SNP state. However, I am happy that they have at least taken the first steps to freeing their minds.