The Year: 1670-William Penn Is "railroaded" In Court! (The WORLDS First Case Of Jury Nullification!)Submitted by Jdayh on Mon, 01/27/2014 - 17:52
ENJOY THIS PIECE OF HISTORY!
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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