Tag Archives: cronyism

Security Guard With a Criminal Justice Degree; Knows Pretty Much Nothing About the Law

Stupid Security Guard Zappos AcmeRecently, members of Nevada Cop Block and the Sunset Activist Collective were doing a chalk protest on the sidewalks in front of the Zappos Headquarters in Las Vegas. Although Zappos is a private entity, we often protest against them because they use their money and influence to buy land from the city at huge “discounts.” They also leverage that ability to acquire cheap property to drive long standing businesses out of the downtown area. It’s gentrification and cronyism at its worst. They literally bought city hall and it’s not just a metaphor. They have a tight leash on Mayor Carolyn Goodman and most of the City Council members.

They have pushed for and had passed on their behalf laws and city policies, such as beverage sales restrictions and age based curfews, that target their competition (liquor stores) and give police the opportunity to harass people who might be downtown, but that aren’t frequenting the bars that they own or sponsor. Other ordinances they have used their influence to get passed have also targeted street performers, who they also see as competition for the bars, and homeless people.

Security Guard Bachelors Degree Zappos AcmeAs we were in the process of chalking, one of their security guards (the company they work for directly is “Acme Security”) came out and very aggressively tried to claim we couldn’t write on “their property.” Another security guard showed up shortly after and was also acting very aggressive and was equally confused about basic property laws. A third security guard was there, but stayed more or less in the background.

We informed them that the public sidewalk was not their property. Then the first security guard threatened to call the police and also said that we didn’t have his consent to film, which we don’t actually need when filming in public. After we pointed out that he probably should learn basic law if he’s going to work in security, he stated that he was not “just a stupid security guard” and that he “has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.”

Just a Stupid Security Guard Zappos AcmeEventually, after about ten minutes, two LVMPD officers showed up (two more cars also arrived while they were there, but it was basically over by then) and told him he was wrong and we were not breaking the law by chalking on public sidewalks or filming him in public view. It was actually rather humorous (in light of the security guard’s earlier claims about his education) when one of them remarked to us, after I brought up their lack of understanding of basic property law, that they are “just security guards. What do you expect?” (Then everyone laughed.)

There’s really several morals to this story:

Two years ago, three other people and I were arrested for simply writing on sidewalks with “sidewalk” chalk. In total, five of us faced bogus and ridiculous graffiti charges that could have potentially resulted in four years of jail time. Although we’d been harassed a pretty good amount prior to the arrests and for some time after, at this point whenever the police show up, they generally tell us we are doing nothing wrong and then leave.

Because Fuck You (I'm Batman)

Because Fuck You (I’m Batman)

Part of that is undoubtedly due to the lawsuit we filed over those arrests citing the prior harassment. However, the fact that we were vindicated in our original case made it clear that chalking on public sidewalks is not illegal and that the arrests were nothing but harassment, retaliation and intimidation tactics by the LVMPD against someone who was legally and peacefully protesting against their crimes and total lack of accountability. Metro has no choice, but to avoid making that mistake again and they’ve let their officers know that. That’s why it is important to know and exercise your rights.

Even though private security guards aren’t actually cops, they do, or think they can do, many of the functions that police perform. Therefore, it’s important to ensure they understand the laws and rights of people. Although security guards are more likely to be punished for their crimes, especially use of force crimes (and since they aren’t a product of a coercive monopoly there are options available to ensure they are held accountable, even if their employers aren’t willing to do so of their own volition), it’s just as important to ensure they (or anyone in general) know and are following the law and the Constitution.

And lastly, if you’re going to claim you aren’t “a stupid security guard” because you have a degree in criminal justice, perhaps you should crack open a legal dictionary or attend a real college. That way you might know the basics about property law and the First Amendment, instead of looking like a stupid security guard.

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What is Jury Nullification and Why is it Important?

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Captain Six, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. It was originally published at the website Station.6.Underground under the title “What is Jury Nullification.

What is Jury Nullification?

What is Jury Nullification? You won’t find it defined in your dictionary or described in your encyclopedia. You weren’t taught about it in school, and indeed it is even considered a crime to tell other people about it in some circumstances. Imagine that for a moment – it is a crime to inform a citizen as to their right, even the scope of their duty while serving on a jury.

According to the Wikipedia entry:

Jury nullification is a constitutional doctrine which allows juries to acquit criminal defendants who are technically guilty, but who do not deserve punishment. It occurs in a trial when a jury reaches a verdict contrary to the judge’s instructions as to the law. 

A jury verdict contrary to the letter of the law pertains only to the particular case before it. If a pattern of acquittals develops, however, in response to repeated attempts to prosecute a statutory offence, this can have the de facto effect of invalidating the statute. A pattern of jury nullification may indicate public opposition to an unwanted legislative enactment…

Most Americans have never even heard of such a doctrine. Thanks to numerous TV shows and real-life judges telling us that the only function of the jury is to render a decision based strictly upon the facts of the case, a key tenet of the justice system envisioned by the Founding Fathers has been lost. You see, it is not only the job of the jury to weigh guilt or innocence against the letter of the law, but also to judge the just nature of the statutes themselves. In this way, The People ultimately retain power over the government, rather than the government dictating to The People what is and what is not justice. This tenet is instrumental in protecting ourselves, as The People, from tyrannical laws and cronyism. This is why we have a jury system in the first place, not simply to act as a cog in the wheel of the justice system, but to be the justice in the system.

Let us imagine for a moment, that you live in a city where the Mayor makes soda-pop illegal. So illegal that he actually signs into law a criminal statute that makes it a jailable offense to dispense soda-pop. He makes a public campaign to warn about the evils of soda-pop, how detrimental it is to your health, while being crowned king of national doughnut day, and holding a vast amount stock in the city’s number-one importer of iced-tea.

Fascist Food and Nutrition Nazis

Now let us imagine that you are sitting on the jury for a criminal trial of a single-mom arrested for selling soda-pop to her neighbor, which had been “smuggled” in from outside of the city limits, and that the transaction was captured on an audio-video recording by police. You see that she is plainly guilty of violating the law, technically, but can’t in good-conscience send her off to jail for a year. You, and other jury members voice that dilemma to the judge, who then instructs you to render a verdict based strictly on the facts of the case, the evidence presented, and that all other considerations have no bearing on your duty to render a verdict. What do you do? It appears that you have no choice, and you find her guilty.

But if you had actually been a FULLY INFORMED JUROR, rather than just listening to the instructions of the judge who owed his career to the Mayor, you would have known that you did have an alternative. That it was not actually illegal for you to ignore the judge’s instructions, and that you could have rendered a verdict based on your conscience rather than a law in a book. You would have known that Jury Nullification not only gives you this right, but that it is your duty as a juror to render your verdict in such a manner. In this way, you see, not only have you protected the accused from overzealous and tyrannical prosecution, but you have also struck a blow against cronyism. Cronyism by the Mayor who stands to make a profit from the law he made, in relation to the company stocks he owns and the companies that own him. Cronyism by police and prosecutors who turn a profit on the backs of the taxpayers for every arrest and prosecution they make, maintaining their job security and giving the United States the largest prison population in the world in the process.

Imagine how many ridiculous laws would be suddenly rendered obsolete. Imagine how many frivolous prosecutions would be avoided. Imagine how many people would not be sitting in prison today for victimless crimes. Imagine how much lower your taxes would be if you didn’t have to pay for all this nonsense. Imagine how powerless the government would suddenly find itself, in the face of a population that was no longer going to take any of their shit.

Maybe that’s why the principle of Jury Nullification is the most taboo subject in our justice system today, and has been continually eroded in landmark decisions by the courts since 1895, as time has distanced us from the core principles of liberty on which this nation was founded.

In 1794, the case of Georgia v. Brailsford was being heard before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The court’s first Chief Justice, John Jay, established precedent that the Common Law practice of Jury Nullification was valid in the United States. He wrote, in part…

“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.”

That precedent held, unmolested, for 99 years. Prior to the Civil War, the Fugitive Slave Act made it a Federal Crime to help escaped slaves, but jury nullification was instrumental in undermining that law and bringing an end to slavery America. Jurors refused to render a guilty verdict against those who had helped escaped slaves. But in 1895, the Supreme Court of the United States struck it’s first blow against the Common Law principle of Jury Nullification. In Sparf v. United States, SCOTUS held in a 5-4 decision that federal judges were not required to inform jurors of their inherent right to judge the law in a case.

In the 1969, the Fourth Circuit upheld in the case of U.S. v. Moylan that a court could refuse to allow instruction to a jury regarding nullification, yet hypocritically upheld the juror’s inherent right to nullify. In other words, they were denying the right of the juror to be informed of their right, while still maintaining the validity of Jury Nullification stating,

“If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of
the jury to acquit.”

In the 1972 case of United States v Dougherty  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit maintained that the courts could deny the defense a chance to instruct a jury on their right to nullify.

In 1988, in U.S. v. Krzyske, the jury asked the judge about jury nullification. The judge responded “There is no such thing as valid jury nullification.” The jury convicted the defendant, and the judge’s answer was upheld on appeal. Another judge did dissent however, and cited United States v. Wilson, 629 F. 2d 439 – Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit 1980, that the panel had unanimously decided “In criminal cases, a jury is entitled to acquit the defendant because it has no sympathy for the government’s position.”

In 1997, the Second Circuit ruled that jurors can be removed if there is evidence that they intend to nullify the law, under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 23(b). There have even been instances of jurors being removed and mistrials declared after informed-jury activists distributed literature near courthouses.

Now here’s one final gut-check for the uninformed public. We often assume that it is the job of the defense attorney to defend their client to the best of their ability, with all of the knowledge at their disposal. This is not true, however. Attorneys, including defense attorneys, are an Officer of the Court. This means that their first duty is to the law, and not their client. With a sworn oath to uphold the law, they are forbidden from advocating jury nullification. Your lawyer works for the court, not you.

If you ever sit on a jury, remember one important fact. You do not work for the court.

Lawmall.com

A History of Jury Nullification

The Straight Dope