FIJA – jury nullification

As you probably know, The Illuminati Papers is a collection of essays, short items, reviews, head tests, etc – similar in format to RAW’s Trajectories newsletter. One hundred and fifty pages of eye-opening, mind-bending enjoyment!

I have the 1981 second printing (And/Or Press), and I had no idea – until recently – that a later edition (Ronin, 1997) had a brand new introduction added by RAW:

‘This book dates from a barbaric, almost pre-historic age—over twenty years ago. You will realize how far back in the abyss of time that near-Feudal epoch looks in retrospect when I tell you that I wrote the entire manuscript on a typewriter. Of course, we had electric lights instead of candles, and the “horseless carriage” had come into general use, but otherwise the so-called advanced nations remained in a primitive industrial economy and few could foresee the Information Age dawning.’
– Robert Anton Wilson, 1997 intro to The Illuminati Papers

Among the topics covered in this 1997 intro is jury nullification, which reminded me of RAW’s strong advocacy for FIJA, the Fully Informed Jury Association, during the 1990s. He described it as “freedom’s last chance” (to quote the subtitle of an article he wrote about jury nullification in Trajectories #8, Autumn 1990). FIJA in fact gets its own entry in RAW’s Everything is Under Control (plus mentions in TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution – p131).

And here’s how he describes it in a 1991 interview with The Fifth Path magazine:

‘My latest crusade is the fully informed juror amendment. It’s something that’s been written into law since the Magna Carta, but it’s never been compulsory for a judge to tell a jury … juries have the right to nullify laws if they find you guilty of something and they think the law itself is stupid, they can acquit you. They don’t have to obey the judge’s instructions. That’s been upheld for 600, 700 years, but there’s never been a law that judges have to tell juries about that right. The F.I.J.A. would change that. I think it’s the only hope we’ve got, the way this country’s going’  [1]

In the above mentioned Trajectories article, RAW adds that, “Certainly, the anti-pot law, the silliest of all our drug laws, could not survive, in a nation with at least 70 million pot-heads, if juries knew they had the right of nullification.”

FIJA latest

FIJA still seems to be going strong. The latest in their case file describes an extraordinary situation in which Judge Stefan R. Underhill stated openly in court (regarding an ongoing prosecution) that “This is a shocking case. This is a case that calls for jury nullification … I am absolutely stunned that this case, with a 15-year mandatory minimum, has been brought by the government.” (Extraordinary because judges have often been known to frown upon a defence’s appeal to the right of jury nullification).

In fact, the judge in this case was rebuked (by a divided panel of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals) according to this Reason Magazine account.

Here’s how one legal site describes the details of the case (while commenting that “The nullification power is like Dorothy’s ruby slippers: she wore those things for the whole trip through Oz never knowing they could take her back to Kansas with three taps whenever she wanted them to”):

[1]  RAW commenting in The Fifth Path magazine interview – available online here.

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