Winn trial: Jury rights withheld

The jury has been selected for Kyler Carriker’s trial on the charge of first degree felony murder. During the selection process, known as voir dire, prosecutor Trinity Muth grilled the prospective jurors in much the same fashion that one might expect a detective to question a suspected criminal.

Muth asked each juror what their stance on marijuana was, and then moved on to questions pertaining to how the jurors must rule based on the law, as interpreted by the judge. Presumably, Muth’s point was to dissuade the jury pool from exercising their right to jury nullification, a process where a jury can vote not guilty if they disagree with the law itself. Jury nullification played a key role in ending the prohibition of alcohol.

Defense attorney Sarah Swain then began to ask the jury pool questions of her own, in an attempt to educate the jury on their rights, but Muth vehemently objected, and the judge sided with the prosecution, so the jury was not permitted to be asked questions about their right to nullify unjust laws.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 22, both sides will make their opening statements, beginning with the prosecution at 9 am, central standard time. Protests are expected to continue throughout the projected two week duration of the trial, and those wishing to join are asked to come to the Sedgwick County Courthouse.

Read more about Kyler Carriker’s case:

No justice in Wichita Felony Murder Case

Sedgwick County Judge: Marijuana is more Dangerous than Armed Robbery

Winn Trial Begins: Judge says Shirts in Support of Defendant Barred

A van, parked outside the Sedgwick County Courthouse.
A van, parked outside the Sedgwick County Courthouse.

4 thoughts on “Winn trial: Jury rights withheld

  1. Jury nullification is a phenomenon, NOT a ‘right’. Juries do not have the ‘right’ to judge the law, they are only to determine guilt or innocence based on the law as explained by the Court. Nullification has, of course, happened, but when it does it is done by a jury that is violating the law, not exercising a ‘right’.

    1. “Jury nullification is a phenomenon, NOT a ‘right’.”

      That is mistaken. In the words of the first Chief Justice of the United States, John Jay, in his instructions to the jury in the case of Georgia v. Brailsford (1794):
      “It may not be amiss, here, Gentlemen, to remind you of the good old rule, that on questions of fact, it is the province of the jury, on questions of law, it is the province of the court to decide. But it must be observed that by the same law, which recognizes this reasonable distribution of jurisdiction, you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy. On this, and on every other occasion, however, we have no doubt, you will pay that respect, which is due to the opinion of the court: For, as on the one hand, it is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumbable, that the court are the best judges of the law. But still both objects are lawfully, within your power of decision.”

      In fact, jury nullification was one of the reasons that the American Revolution happened. Colonists were ignoring the Stamp Act, the first direct tax on American colonists. As colonial juries were reluctant to enforce this law against their neighbors and frequently nullified, trials were moved to British admiralty courts. This is one of the issues that led to the inclusion in the list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence: “For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury”.

      We have this right still today. Jurors cannot be punished for their verdicts, and courts still uphold the jury’s absolute right to pass a judgment of Not Guilty in a case, no matter how clear the evidence is that the law was broken. Just last year, I think it was, we recently saw a case in which a defendant’s conviction was overturned because the judge directed the jury to return a Guilty verdict after the man took the stand and admitted he had broken the law.

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