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If you can't afford an attorney in Charleston County, don't expect a jury trial

If you can’t afford an attorney in Charleston County, don’t expect a jury trial


March 15, 2006 – According to Jennifer Kneece Shealy, Executive Director of the Charleston County Public Defender’s Office, between July 1, 2004 and June 30, 2005, the Public Defender’s Office represented 3,291 defendants.  Of these 3,291 defendants, only 14, or .004% had their cases heard before a jury of their peers.  What this indicates is that if you cannot afford a legal defense and are provided a court-appointed attorney through the Charleston County Public Defender’s Office, there is a 99.996% chance that you will not have the benefit of a jury trial.  How this fact can be construed as equating to a fair and adequate defense for the criminally accused is anybody’s guess. 


The original intent of a trial by jury was to protect people from draconian laws and punishments, totalitarian enactments, over-zealous and malicious prosecution, and basic bad lawmaking processes.  How times have changed.  In America today, most judges and prosecutors seek to eliminate from the courtroom, all informed jurors that demonstrate during the jury selection process, a propensity for ignoring the evidence presented at trial as well as the judge’s instruction, in favor of nullifying a basic bad lawmaking process. 


For instance, in Charleston County the courts know that if they do not tamper with the jury pool by stacking it with only those jurors who favor the laws in which the defendant is charged with violating, there is a very high probability that at least one of the twelve jurors will nullify the law and vote not guilty.  This is particularly true in the case of drug laws and those charged with drug possession or possession with the intent to distribute.  (To learn how the courts, in pursuit of drug law violation convictions, are tampering with the jury pool in Charleston County, read Black-robed sharks prey on jury pool.)


Another method the government uses to prevent jurors from exercising their constitutional mandate is to simply prevent criminal cases from ever being heard by a jury of the defendant’s peers.  It is estimated that nationwide, approximately nine out of ten criminal cases are disposed of without the benefit of a jury trial.  This is atrocious because it greatly minimizes the overall power, meant for the people, against an overzealous government.  The way the government avoids the jury is to coerce defendants into pleading guilty in exchange for some form of leniency.  Often prosecutors will drop some charges or agree to a guilty plea to lesser charges even though they know full well that the defendant is only pleading guilty because they fear that if they do not and are still found guilty at a jury trial, the prosecutor will seek harsher penalties then had the defendant rolled over for the government.  This is not justice.  It is blackmail plain and simple, and both judges and prosecutors are pulling this stunt on the people in every courthouse across America - every single day. 


What is needed in Charleston County and elsewhere is a grassroots effort by the people to take back the courtrooms by reclaiming the jury box.  The juror was once the most powerful person in the courtroom.  Today, because the government is terrorizing and blackmailing defendants out of jury trials while blocking informed jurors from ever being seated in the jury box, the constitutional intent of a jury trial has been squelched.  In Charleston County and elsewhere, public defenders simply will not bother the government with jury trials, even though half of the criminal cases they handle are drug possession cases. 

In theory, there are people rotting away in the South Carolina Prison Complex because they had a public defender in a Charleston County courtroom who recommended that the defendant plea guilty to get a lighter prison sentence, rather than fighting for their defendant by presenting their case before a jury of the defendant’s peers.  Why public defenders are not aggressively seeking jury trials, particularly in the case of defendants facing drug charges with no victim to testify against them is suspicious.  Lawyers have to know that an unmolested jury presents a very strong likelihood that at least one of the twelve jurors will “hang the jury” because he or she believes that the war on people who use certain types of drugs represents a bad law making process.  How could defense attorneys not know? 


After all, the government recognizes that at least 8.5% of the population of the United States favors the decriminalization and regulation of all criminalized substances, therefore an unmolested jury of twelve is not likely to be assembled without at least one juror nullifying the drug law.  That’s why the judges and prosecutors are torpedoing the jury pools, but why are defense attorneys going along with it?  It might be as simple as the fact that they all belong to the same Bar Association, which if the cause for the lack of jury trials in the United States, amounts to judicial racketeering with criminal intent.


While the possibility of potential jurors slipping through the government’s inquisition makes the judges and prosecutors squeamish, it is exactly what the Founding Fathers intended.  It’s the purpose of the jury.  As the United States Supreme Court has previously stated, “The pages of history shine on instances of the jury’s exercise of its prerogative to disregard instructions of the judge…”[U.S. vs. Dougherty, 473 F 2nd 1113, 1139. (1972)]. The government’s meddling in this constitutionally derived jury process demonstrates more criminal intent on the part of judges and prosecutors than could possibly be possessed by many of the victimless crime defendants that the government seeks to convict. 


What we the people must recognize is that the government will not fix this problem.  It’s up to the people to talk amongst themselves and fight back against the oppressive criminal justice system by demanding jury trials.  The people need to accept jury duty as a constitutional mandate, and once on the jury, judge the evidence presented as well as the law itself – despite and regardless of the judge’s instruction to do otherwise.


Freelance writer / author, Ed Haas, is the editor and columnist for the Muckraker Report.  Get smart.  Read the Muckraker Report.  [http://teamliberty.net]  To learn more about Ed’s current and previous work, visit Crafting Prose.  [http://craftingprose.com]   

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