This principle was established as long ago as 1670 in a celebrated case of the Quakers, William Penn and William Mead. All that they had done was to preach in London on a Sunday afternoon. They were charged with causing an unlawful and tumultuous assembly there. The judge directed the jury to find the Quakers guilty, but they refused. The Jury said Penn was guilty of preaching, but not of unlawful assembly. The Judge refused to accept this verdict. He threatened them with all sorts of pains and punishments. He kept them 'all night without meat, drink, fire, or other accommodation: they had not so much as a chamber pot, though desired'. They still refused to find the Quakers guilty of an unlawful assembly. He kept them another night and still they refused. He then commanded each to answer to his name and give his verdict separately. Each gave his verdict 'Not Guilty'. For this the judge fined them 40 marks apiece and cast them into prison until it was paid. One of them Edward Bushell, thereupon brought his (case) before the Court of the King's Bench. It was there held that no judge had any right to imprison a juryman for finding against his direction on a point of law; for the judge could never direct what the law was without knowing the facts, and of the facts the jury were the sole judge. The jury were thereupon set free.P.S. But Stevenson and his co-defendents were found guilty.
Friday, July 03, 2009
Jonathan Stevenson quotes Lord Denning on the right of jurors to follow their own judgment: