"Jury nullification of law," as it is sometimes called, is a traditional right that was rigorously defended by America's Founding Fathers. Those great men, Patriots all, intended the jury to serve as a final safeguard – a test that laws must pass before gaining sufficient popular authority for enforcement. Thus the Constitution provides five separate tribunals with veto power – representatives, senate, executive, judges – and finally juries. Each enactment of law must pass all these hurdles before it gains the authority to punish those who may choose to violate it.
Thomas Jefferson said, "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
Such was the case in the 1670 political trial of William Penn, who was charged with preaching Quakerism to an unlawful assembly. Four of the twelve jurors voted to acquit – and continued to acquit even after being imprisoned and starved for four days. Under such duress, most jurors paid the fines. However, one juror, Edward Bushell, refused to pay and brought his case before the Court of Common Pleas. As a result, Chief Justice Vaughan issued an historically-important ruling: that jurors could not be punished for their verdicts. Bushell's Case (1670) was one of the most important developments in the common-law history of the jury.
Earlier in America, jury nullification decided the celebrated seditious libel trial of John Peter Zenger. (Zenger's Case, 1735) His newspaper had openly criticized the royal governor of New York. The current law made it a crime to publish any statement (true or false) criticizing public officials, laws or the government in general. The jury was only to decide if the material in question had been published; the judge was to decide if the material was in violation of the statute.
Zenger's defense asked the jury to make use of their own consciences and, even though the judge ruled that the truth was no defense, they acquitted him. The jury's nullification in this case is praised in history textbooks as a hallmark of freedom of the press in the United States.
At the time of the American Revolution, the jury was known to have the power to be the judge of both law and fact. In a case involving the civil forfeiture of private property by the state of Georgia, first Supreme Court Justice John Jay, instructed jurors that the jury has "a right to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy." (Georgia vs. Brailsford, 1794:4)
And this stuff happened when we only had a few laws, compared to the millions upon millions we have today... and they continue to grow, each one taking away a piece of our freedoms. That's what laws do, take away freedoms..... but I suppose those of you here who make your living off of 'the law' wouldn't be bothered or have any conflicts in such matters.