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