Penn’s Jurors’ Treason — Our Reason
Remember, remember the Fifth of September, when jurors freed Penn of the knot. I know of no reason why Penn’s jurors’ treason should ever be forgot.
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is one of three governors who have honored September 5, officially, as Jury Rights Day. From her 2007 proclamation we learn that 338 years ago, in the trial of William Penn, his jury refused to convict him of violating England’s Conventicle Acts, despite clear evidence that he acted illegally by preaching a Quaker sermon.
In acquitting Penn, the jury acted against the judge’s explicit instructions, perhaps spurred by the judge’s own illegality, not allowing Penn to make a defense. So the judge threw the jurors in prison, on September 5.
In my little ditty, my parody of the Guy Fawkes Day rhyme, I indicated Penn was in danger of hanging. I doubt that. It rhymes; that’s my excuse. But he was in danger of harsh imprisonment, at the very least, merely for gathering people so he could preach.
The jurors who resisted a bad law and a rogue judge risked a lot. But they not only freed Penn, who went on to found Pennsylvania, they established important principles to be found today in our Bill of Rights — and in the principle of jury nullification. They served justice by judging the law as well as the accused.
I know of no reason why Penn’s jurors’ “treason” should ever be forgot!
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.