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THE RIGHT OF JURIES TO JUDGE OF THE JUSTICE OF LAWS Section I For more than six hundred years-that is since Magna Carta in 1215--there has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law than that in criminal cases it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts what is the law and what was the moral intent of the accused but that it is also their light and their primary and paramount duty to judge the justice of the law and to hold all laws invalid that are in their opinion unjust or oppressive and all persons guiltless in violating or resisting the execution of such law Unless such be the right and duty of jurors it is plain that instead of juries being a palladium of liberty-a barrier against the tyranny and oppression of the government-they are really mere tools in its hands for carrying into execution any injustice and oppression it may desire to have executed But for their right to judge the law and the justice of the law juries would be no protection to an accused person even as to matters Of fact for if the government can dictate to a jury any law whatever in a criminal case it can certainly dictate to them the laws of evidence That is it can dictate what evidence is admissible and what inadmissible and also what force or weight is to be given to the evidence admitted And if the government can thus dictate to a jury the laws of evidence it can not only make it necessary for them to convict on a partial exhibition of the evidence rightfully pertaining to the case but it can even require them to convict on any evidence whatever that it pleases to offer them That the rights and duties of jurors must necessarily be such as are here
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