In the United States, "We The People" are sovereign. America has no king. The people rule. They have the power of the ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box, and in this land of freedom, nothing is more important than the jury box. The right to a speedy trial by a jury of one's peers is a benchmark of liberty.
Juries have incredible power. Not only do they have power over the fate of the accused, but they also have power over the accusers. No one has more authority than a jury—not even the judge, in most cases. A constitutionally literate, fully informed jury is pretty much all that stands between the ballot box and the cartridge box.
In a letter to Thomas Pain, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I consider (trial by jury) as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." And then, two years before the first shot was fired in America's War for Independence, a Boston lawyer by the name of John Adams wrote, "Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty. Without them we have no other fortification against being ridden like horses, fleeced like sheep, worked like cattle, and fed and clothed like swine and hounds."
Juries have a constitutional duty and obligation to judge, not only the merits of the case before them, but also the merits of the law which brought the accused before them. America's Founding Fathers agreed with that statement.
John Adams wrote, "It is not only his (the juror's) right, but his duty...to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court." This from one of our country's most celebrated lawyers, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and America's second president.
America's first U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice was in agreement with Adams. John Jay wrote, "The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy." The rest of America's founders agreed with Adams, Jay and Jefferson. U.S. Supreme Court Justice and signer of the Declaration, Samuel Chase, wrote, "The jury has the right to determine both the law and the facts." Patrick Henry wrote, "Why do we love this trial by jury? Because it prevents the hand of oppression from cutting you off...This gives me comfort, that, as long as I have existence, my neighbors will protect me."
That is exactly what a jury in Liberty County, Florida, did recently. The jurors protected their neighbor. Their neighbor in this case was none other than the county sheriff, Nick Finch, who was charged with felony "official misconduct" and "falsifying public records" after he released a suspect arrested on an unconstitutional gun charge and removed the arrest file. After closing arguments by prosecutors and the defense, the jury took less than 90 minutes to reach its verdict. Finch was declared "Not Guilty" of the charges.
During the trial, Finch testified that he released Floyd Eugene Parrish, who was arrested for unlawfully carrying a firearm, because the sheriff believed the Second Amendment trumped all state gun laws. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement accused Finch of covering up the arrest of Parrish after releasing him from the Liberty County Jail.
Months earlier, a Liberty County sheriff's deputy arrested Parrish during a traffic stop after finding a small-caliber automatic pistol in Parrish's right front pocket and a holstered revolver in his car, according to court records. After his arrest, Parrish was taken to the county jail.
When Finch was notified of Parrish's arrest, he took the arrest file and told jailers that Parrish would be released with no charges, according to investigators. Finch also ordered both the pistol and revolver to be returned to Parrish.
This verdict is one of the most important jury decisions in modern history, but somehow ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox missed it. The good sheriff is a modern-day Daniel. He stood firmly on the U.S. Constitution and its Second Amendment. For that, he was thrown into a den of lions by Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, and the F.C.L.E. (Florida Department of Law Enforcement). In spite of it all, an eight-person jury acquitted Finch of all charges and the sheriff was reinstated.
That is exactly what a jury is supposed to do—protect its neighbors from the oppression of unlawful government. And, that is exactly what that Liberty County jury did. They deserve the gratitude of liberty lovers all over America.
It is pathetic that Rick Scott, who ought to know better, did not stand with Finch. Instead, he threw Finch into the lion's den. No matter. God delivered him, and now the people of Florida should throw Scott into the lion's den (just as King Darius did to Daniel's accusers). Impeachment and removal from office is in order because the governor did not defend the U.S. Constitution after taking an oath to do just that.
Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Samuel Chase and John Jay would have stood with Sheriff Finch, and so would U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holes. Holmes wrote, "The jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both law and fact."
Rendering "a verdict in the teeth of both law and fact" is exactly what that Liberty County, Florida, jury did. They upheld the constitutional right of people in this country to keep and bear arms. They also repudiated the Florida state gun-control laws that abridge that right under the rubric of license.
Far too often in America, politicians give lip service to the Second Amendment, then pass laws that chip away at that very same amendment. "We The People" need to demand more than lip service from our elected officials. We need more sheriffs like Nick Finch. We need more governors like Patrick Henry. We need more justices like John Jay and Oliver Wendell Holmes. We need more presidents like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Ed Baswell pastors The Clarion Church and is the host of Crossfire Radio, Monday through Friday, 7-9 am. The show is aired on the KTBS-TV 24-hour news channel and on The Promise, 90.7 FM. It is streamed live worldwide at ktbs.com and promisetalkradio.org. His column runs on Tuesday in the Minden Press-Herald.