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The Year: 1670-William Penn Is "railroaded" In Court! (The WORLDS First Case Of Jury Nullification!)


NARRATOR: The date is September 1, 1670. The place is the Old Bailey Courthouse in London, England. The Conventicle Act makes it a crime for any person who is not a member of the Church of England to preach inside a building. Knowing this, 21-year-old William Penn, a Quaker and future founder of the colony of Pennsylvania, preached to an assembly of Quakers (a religious group not in unity with the Church of England) on Gracechurch Street in London. He was arrested and charged with fomenting an unlawful and tumultuous assembly. His trial, which demonstrates the extent to which jurors will go to protect the role and responsibility of the jury, is about to begin.

CRIER: Oyez. All those having business before this honorable court are admonished to draw near, give their attention, and they shall be heard. God save the King!

The honorable men of the jury: Thomas Veer, Edward Bushel, John Hammond, Charles Milson, Gregory Walklet, John Brightman, William Plumstead, Henry Henley, Thomas Damask, Henry Michel, William Lever, and John Baily.

Oath: "You shall swear that your verdict in this matter shall be based upon the evidence presented in this trial and upon the evidence alone. So help you God."

JURORS: We do.

CRIER: William Penn. You shall now hear the indictment against you.

That you, William Penn, on or about the 14th day of August 1670, with force and arms, did unlawfully and tumultuously assemble yourself and others in disturbance of the peace. Moreover, once assembled, you did preach and speak to the crowd, an action that resulted in an even greater disturbance of the peace.

COURT: How do you plead, William Penn? Guilty or not guilty?

PENN: I plead not guilty.

COURT: Bring William Penn to the Bar.

NARRATOR: In order to both wear down and instill fear in Penn, the court does not begin his trial immediately, but makes him wait until the trials of felons and murderers have taken place. More often than not, these trials result in guilty verdicts and death sentences. After five hours of this, court adjourns. It reconvenes on September 3. As was customary, Penn removed his hat when he entered the courtroom. On this day, however, the court instructed the clerk to place it back upon his head.

COURT: William Penn. Do you know where you are? Do you not know that you are in the King's Court?

PENN: I do.

COURT: Then why do you not show respect to the court and remove your hat?

PENN: I did come into court with my hat off, but the court ordered that it be placed back upon my head.

COURT: The court has heard enough. You are fined 40 marks for your contempt of court.

PENN: Since the court commanded me to put my hat back on my head, I believe that the court should be fined. I ask the jury to note the injustice that I have been subjected to by the court.

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Spoiler alert! I found the rest of the story that you may want

to add. Quite a long story and I have yet to finish reading, but it turns out his dying father paid the fine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Penn

"With his father dying, Penn wanted to see him one more time and patch up their differences. But he urged his father not to pay his fine and free him."I intreat thee not to purchase my liberty." But the Admiral refused to let the opportunity pass and he paid the fine, releasing his son."

What are you fightin' for?
Caught in the middle?
Freedom is only for those with the guts to defend it!

thanks for the update!

And for the rest of the story....

ChristianAnarchist's picture

By God that was GREAT!! And

By God that was GREAT!! And it wasn't until I'd finished reading it that I discovered to my astonishment that this story was on the http://www.uscourts.gov web site !!!!

Beware the cult of "government"...


I guess one must be an authoritarian to be happy as a judge. That's why we really need to have a good constitution to bind them.

What do you think? http://consequeries.com/

The US Courts Are Much Worse

Thanks for the great story.

When America broke away from England, there was no requirement to follow anyone's court precedent. English courts no longer had any authority in America. Our new courts were allowed to become 100% American.

At that time, we created our own Supreme Law, which "was" known as the Constitution, with the Declaration of Independence being the enacting document that gave the Constitution it's authority.

America blew it.

In terms of the courts, America has evolved into a monopolistic legal industry that is controlled by judge made law (just like the English law that we escaped). The current American version is so sophisticated that no one fully understands it. This sleight of hand court is seemingly not as violent or obvious as the William Penn court. It is much worse.

That is because the average person does not realize that he is being defrauded. Trials are not designed to be fair and the general public does not know it. A large segment of those who lose court cases would not lose those cases if justice, fairness, and the best interests of America were the goal.

No progress will be made in terms of creating a better society until we develop a new court system that is designed and operated by normal people in a free market court environment.

The William Penn article on the Government web site clearly illustrates the problem and how our sophisticated court system can become just as blatant.

Gene Louis
Supporting a Needed Tool for Government Feedback:
A Citizen-Operated Legal System.

TwelveOhOne's picture

Loved the ending

""Bushel's Case," as it came to be known, is of a great importance in law because it established the concept of jury nullification. In essence, the court reaffirmed the principle that the right to determine the facts of a given case is the sole prerogative of the jury, not the judge. Consequently, even if a jury in a criminal case finds a defendant not guilty when all of the facts might prove guilt to an objective person, courts cannot punish the jurors for rendering what might be considered a false verdict. Courts also cannot try to compel them to change their verdict. Today, jury nullification is sometimes used to make a social statement that the jurors think a particular law is unjust and that people should not be prosecuted for violating it."

And this on a .gov site! Great find bump.

I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.
http://fija.org - Fully Informed Jury Association
http://jsjinc.net - Jin Shin Jyutsu (energy healing)

Dramatized here


Leges sine moribus vanae

Definitely front page worthy!

Great story and very enjoyable read! I just want to know what happened regarding his hat. Did he pay the fine or was he later acquitted?

What are you fightin' for?
Caught in the middle?
Freedom is only for those with the guts to defend it!

On Duty


A memorial plaque commemorating 'Bushell's Case' is in the Old Bailey.

bump cause everyone should read this


Thanks for posting this Wm Penn story.

It was a pleasure reading it.
I find it exasperating that good patriotic citizens expend so much energy fighting the evils of the justice system by argument and debate when they already know without question it is those elected to serve the justice system that are actually outside the law and abuse their power as often as they can get away with.
I always wonder at what point do we fight, even to the death? For myself, as today's events dictate, it is NOW. Having said that, the very next thought is whether we have enough manpower to overtake the enemy; and I suppose, that is the very reason we continue arguing, complaining, debating, spreading the word of truth and injustice, until we feel we have the manpower to overtake the enemy.
I'm looking forward to the ten million man march on Washington on May 16, 2014. The numbers of Americans who are awake are growing like crazy these days. It won't be long before a real showdown takes place.
Thanks for a great post.
God bless all Libertarians.

front page bump

this is the best article I have seen here in a while. My favorite part is that this is the government court website making a point about the legality of jury nullification.

That was EXCELLENT!!!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It's cases like these that need to be remembered and spread around. Thanks for posting it here.

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
James Madison