FIJA IN THE FIELD: WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN'T A lot of imagination continues to go into +quo

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FIJA IN THE FIELD: WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN'T A lot of imagination continues to go into "field methods" for FIJA; that is, into new and better ways to educate jurors about their power to veto bad law. In fact, it's to the point that an "annotated list" of these techniques and strategies could make instructive reading, so here's an attempt: LEAFLETING JURORS The "main event" in FIJA activism continues to be distribution of brochures about jury power to potential and empaneled jurors at local courthouses. Sometimes it's done in celebration of Jury Rights Day, sometimes in advance of a particular trial, sometimes "randomly" and sometimes routinely, depending on what local area FIJA activists have the time, money, and inclination to do. Results are hard to measure, of course. Short of scheduling post-trial interviews with jurors, or hearing from them at their own volition (both of which have happened, but only occasionally), the only way to estimate what happened is to look at the verdict, and speculate whether FIJA information reached the jury, and worked in the direction of justice. Positive feedback from former jurors who did receive FIJA information is increasing, and by a look at the verdict, a lot of defendants have decided that it "worked for them", but we have a number of cases where it apparently didn't. Of course, FIJA information typically conflicts with what the judge tells the jury, and there are many people who will take the word of the court over ours. Many former jurors are probably afraid to come right out and say publicly that they ignored the instructions of thejudge, even if they did. At a minimum, literature distribution probably causes a few sparks of curiosity to flicker, where before there was nothing but blind obedience a government employee wearing a black robe. Couple this with generally fair media coverage of FIJA brochure distribution events and the impact can be great. One of the best methods of reaching juries with our message seems to be a combined strategy of handing leaflets while standing next to one of our giant banners, backed up by a PA system, with either a live speaker or a recorded Public Service Announcement playing loudly and clearly (as was done in San Antonio, at the Davidians' trial). TV cameras love color, sound, and movement, and this "package" seems to attract them in all of those ways. It may even cause a controversy, which really magnetizes the media. Speaking of controversy, leafleting (with or without banners and a PA system) can aggravate the powers that be. Sometimes, a judge will issue an order for leafleters to clear out of or away from "his" or "her" courthouse. Violation of such an order can lead to confrontation and arrest (usually on charges of contempt of court, rarely on charges of jury tampering). Jury tampering, of course, involves coercion or bribery to attempt to directly influence a particular case. FIJA literature, on the other hand only speaks of general principles and the rights and responsibilities of all jurors, or of any citizen who may become a juror. California FIJA co-coordinator Jim Harnsberger is right now testing the power of local judges to enforce a court order barring him and his allies from distributing literature at the door of county courthouses, and prospects look fairly good that the judge's power to hold people in contempt of court for this activity may be trimmed. The sidewalk around federal courthouses has already been recognized as a "traditional free speech zone" by the Supreme Court (U.S. v Grace, 1983). And we should all remember that Dixianne Hawks tested whether the government could make charges of jury tampering stick against FIJA leafleters--and she went farther even than Jim in her educational efforts: she actually sought out some of the jurors in her son's trial, identified herself as the defendant's mother, and then gave FIJA material to them! We don't recommend that relatives of defendants come into contact with jurors, even to give them a brochure. In short, the future for leafleting looks pretty bright. If Harnsberger's case sets precedent that free speech is indeed allowed up to the courthouse door, and cannot be punished as contempt of court, this avenue for jury education will remain open. Charging FIJA folk with jury tampering has already become a rarity, because it seems judges and prosecutors have come to realize that charging us with jury tampering will ultimately oblige them to show and explain FIJA material to our jury, because that is the evidence! (NOTE: this may be the only "Catch 22 " in existence that favors the citizen over the government!) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS, ADS & COMMERCIALS If you have an event to announce, local radio and TV channels, notified far enough in advance, will often air a PSA. The only problem is that it's hard to lay down an effective educational message, and announce an event, all in thirty seconds. FIJA National now stocks and sells both audio and video PSA's which are strictly educational, but it's harder to get them played precisely because they are so general, and the broadcast media usually devote most of their obligatory "public service" time to announcements of local events. If you can't get air time, consider planning and announcing events which are going to be exciting and attractive to people who attend, and then find a way to "work in" some jury power education at the event, instead of over the air. That's precisely the idea of the Tejano dance planned for June in San Antonio, and it should make some badly needed money for FIJA San Antonio, too. Israel Maldonado, the defendant whose band will play at the event, will be cutting audio PSA's in Spanish, to play on local Spanish-speaking radio stations, announcing the event. It turns out that a very good (and generally receptive) place to take a video PSA is to your local public access television station. Among other things, you'll find some of the more creative, idealistic, and energetic minds in the community are already there, and among them is bound to be one or more producers or hosts who will run the FIJA PSA's, happy that they do not promote local events! FIJA National has a set of four PSA's on videotape (VHS and 3/4") available for this purpose. You may even talk a local commercial station into showing them once in a while. In most such broadcasts, the object is to get the listener or viewer to phone 1-800- TEL-JURY, and let us send him or her a "Jury Power Information Kit". Some of the callers are deeply interested, so they are very likely to read and absorb what we send, and may be persuaded to join FIJA. A few of them are jurors at the time they phone, and many others know that they're part of an eligible jury pool. A few state and local coordinators have asked for and received lists of "800 callers" in their area from Gary Dusseljee, who operates FIJA's toll-free line. They then contact them to see if they want to get active, join, or contribute locally--and some do. MAILINGS TO THE JURY POOL This can be at least as effective as leafleting, especially if the clerk of your local court will give out the names and addresses of people on the venire panel (the subset of the total pool from which a given jury will be selected). There is enormous variation in policy at this point, however, so be prepared to face a clerk who all but makes it impossible to find out even who is on the master jury wheel for the entire area of jurisdiction for the court. If you run into a brick wall, there may be legal remedy, but like the prospect of being arrested for contempt of court while leafleting, you must decide in advance how much of your precious time and money you're willing to risk, for what potential gain. For example, what if you finally get the master wheel after weeks of effort, only to find that it is 16,000 names long, and you don't have the money to mail to that many people. There are a couple of options: sample the list, perhaps sending to every tenth person. Or send everyone a postcard, which will set you back only 20 cents or so apiece, instead of the 50 cents or a dollar you might want to spend if you could get the names of the particular venire panel or jury you want to reach. FIJA's "MASTER COPIES" kits contains two such postcards. One contains seven "True or False?" questions, each of them very educational on matters of jury power--and the answer to the last question encourages calls to our 800 number. As long as you do not include material in your mailing which pertains directly to the trial being heard by the jury you're contacting, you should be in no danger of being charged with jury tampering. And if you mail only once, your action will precede any court order prohibiting you from so doing, so you will not be charged with contempt of court, either. FIJA LEGISLATION AND FIJA BALLOT ISSUES There is much action on this front, past, present, and future. By the time this article can be printed, bills to require courts to inform jurors of their right to judge both law and fact may have passed in either or both Arizona and Oklahoma. A FIJA bill nearly made it through the Utah Legislature this year, and the Arizona Legislature last year. And there is progress on bills of this nature in several other states, as well. At this point, the language of most proposed FIJA legislation is about the same, and none of the bills proposed to date has been badly damaged by amendments while moving through the legislative process. The lawmakers of the land are getting used to the idea, at the same time that it gains acceptance and popularity among the citizens. The headlines are getting full of cases that either were or should have been decided by a fully informed jury, and the opposition from prosecutors and others with a vested interest in high conviction rates is starting to fade in some areas. We anticipate a "domino effect" will begin as the first state or two adopts FIJA legislation. After few months or years, when it proves to have good results wherever it's tried, with little "downside risk", it will pass easily in most states. Right now ,though, it's still "very new stuff", and many legislators are waiting for their counterparts in other states to "go first". This means if you pursue FIJA legislation while it's still on the crest of the wave, you'll have to talk like a Dutch Uncle, and learn to wheel and deal with and between legislators, always keeping in mind that no matter what else they say, their underlying and unspoken question is "What's in this bill for me?" To be competent as a lobbyist, you'll want to study the party, education, philosophy, reputation, leverage, and many other aspects of every legislator you wish to persuade, so that you can touch all the right buttons when making your pitch. You'll need an articulate, enthusiastic sponsor, one who won't compromise on the crucial points, or fade out on you when the committee hearing comes along, or is obligated to go along with someone else's point of view, etc. You'll want to register as a lobbyist (if required--which usually depends on your expenditures or compensation), dress attractively, learn the layout and protocol of your statehouse, remember lots of names, stay organized, and learn to listen as never before. You'll want to draw in support from any group you can think of which might have a stake in justice, as delivered by a fully informed jury, then make arrangements to pitch FIJA to them, and get them to commit to FIJA on paper. FIJA's "MASTER COPIES" packet contains a Resolution which groups can use to endorse FIJA. Don't be discouraged if your state legislature doesn't leap to rapt, attentive support of proposed FIJA legislation. This is fundamental stuff: any true FIJA bill asks the Legislative to take on the Judicial Branch of government, to some degree. It will draw the wrath of people whose political or legal careers may seem to them to depend upon looking like heroes of law and order (justice notwithstanding), or who are owned by powerful special interests, but will also almost certainly draw supportive passion from several other lawmakers who understand and like its implications at first sight. You'll also have to do your homework. The "MASTER COPIES" kit contains "flashcard" responses to the fourteen most commonly raised objections to FIJA, and you'll hear them all as you work a legislature, so be prepared. And you should familiarize yourself with the growing body of legal periodical literature not only on jury nullification, but on FIJA's attempt to get laws passed requiring that jurors be told about it (for the latest on this, see "FIJA Legislation: Where Do We Go From Here?") If your state offers an initiative or referendum process, that's another possibility. But know in advance that unless there is a lot of "ambient knowledge" about jury power in your state, you'll spend 2-5 minutes per person trying to get a signature to put a FIJA proposition on the ballot. FIJA is not easily summarized, and you'll go hoarse explaining it over and over again, one person at a time. Since most states require tens of thousands of signatures before an issue can qualify for the ballot, you'll either need an awful lot of volunteer help, or a substantial endowment from someone to pay for professional petitioners (if they're allowed by law in your state). Any way you look at it, ballot drives are expensive. Thousands of petitions need to be printed, distributed, and collected once completed. Phone bills, mailings, and office expenses will need to be paid. Travel and lodging expenses can be expected. An interesting "hybrid" approach, which seems to be gaining ground in states which allow it, is to lobby the legislature to put the FIJA issue on the ballot. That reduces the amount of work and money required from you and you activist allies by about 90%, and it lets the Legislature off the hook, because they don't have to commit to one side of the issue or the other. Some lawmakers have told us that in their state, it's easier to get a constitutional amendment put on the ballot, and from there into the state constitution, than it is to pass the same language as a statute! If you decide to shoot for a FIJA law by legislation or ballot issue, however, be prepared to stay on the case for several years. Build as strong an organization as you can, and keep busy doing other things for the cause between legislative sessions, so that you're "up to speed" when a chance to make FIJA into law comes along, and so the idea is not novel. Courtroom education of jurors in their right to judge both law and fact may be an idea whose time has come, but the last thing to change in most cultures is the law of the land. SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, TALK SHOWS, AND BBS DEBATES Yakking it up on the air has proven to be a very effective way to spread the "good word" about FIJA. Don Doig and Larry Dodge, and Gary Dusseljee and Rick Tompkins as well, have appeared as guests on dozens of talk shows over the past four years, from little low-power AM stations to national network shows. But the beauty of these shows is that you don't have to be an invited guest to participate. In most cases, all you have to do is call in. If you have a good FIJA pitch ready to go, or can show how FIJA would have helped resolve the problem a previous speaker was lamenting, you'll "make friends and influence people". Better yet, of course, is an opportunity to represent or argue FIJA on the air or in front of a group. Read a lot of FIJA material beforehand, and don't be bashful about calling FIJA National for advice or additional materials. If you anticipate rough going (a mean host, or a focus on some topic you don't know much about), we'll try to help. While we prefer that you do the show yourself if possible, we can sometimes participate with you, or "sub in" for you if you insist. You'll find most hosts are far more curious than they are nasty, however. So if you supply them with some literature ahead of time, and keep it honest (including admitting it when you don't know how to answer), you'll generally bring out the best in them and their audiences, and will often inspire someone to call who has an even better idea on this or that topic. We've found over the years that well over ninety percent of the people who call in favor the FIJA idea, which will make life easy for you on the show. Many times, the guests "convert" the host by the show's end! Appearances in front of groups is almost the same as being a talk show guest: you speak for a while, then answer questions. It's easier for those who like face-to-face audiences, who read their fears, body language and sense of humor, etc., then speak to it. If you have the poise and personality for this kind of approach, it's very rewarding. It's a good way to find a core of people willing to go active on other tasks, such as leafleting, lobbying, or asking other groups to which they belong to invite you to speak. You can generally circulate a sign-up sheet to build a local mailing list, and equip everyone there with materials, which you can either publish locally or obtain from FIJA National. Another increasingly fruitful avenue for FIJA education is to get involved conversing on electronic bulletin boards. One lady in Oklahoma had just begun to learn how to access a BBS and to participate when a comment about FIJA came up on her screen. So she made her first bulletin board entry a reply to that comment. She's been involved almost every day since then, spreading the word, answering questions and objections, and calling National for advice--which we're happy to give. The nice thing about bulletin boards is that when you've focused in on a subject area, everybody else who has selected that same area is in a similar frame of mind, so it's easy to get a great exchange going between bright, receptive people. These are often the same people who also discuss ideas in person, with friends and relatives, or in front of other audiences, large and small. So BBS dialog can have a very valuable "multiplier effect" because the participants are opinion leaders. ADDITIONAL OUTREACH TECHNIQUES Whenever we think we've heard it all, we haven't. Just a short list of ways to spread awareness of jury veto power will take a lot of space, but here are some of them: Putting FIJA brochures on the counter at your places of business; Installing FIJA newspaper machines alongside others at the courthouse; Holding a dance or barbeque or raffle to raise money for FIJA, or for legal defense and FIJA leafleting expenses; Fastening a billboard to or painting your building with the FIJA message and toll- free number; Draping a FIJA banner from a highway overpass during rush hour; Adding FIJA literature to the racks of magazines and other reading material in the jury assembly room or bathrooms at the courthouse; Explaining FIJA to others when you're called for jury duty, in and out of the deliberation room; Making appointments with judges, prosecutors, and public defenders to explain FIJA to them, and asking what they do about cases where law and morality differ; Offering prizes to students who write the best essay about jury veto power; Running ads in local newspapers, or writing letters to the editor; Renting a booth at a state fair or other gathering, from which literature can be distributed, and people can be signed up.


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank