History Of Nullification

History of Nullification

June 3, 2021

The California Fully Informed Jury Association is proud to provide you, the reader, with this short historical overview of Jury Nullification. Its roots deeply embedded in tradition in the experiment of a Constitutional Republic. Please research and educate yourself on the power of a trial juror and share this valuable information with as many friends and relatives as possible.

Thank you for your time in visiting our site!

James Harnsberger,

State Director



Circa 1735, John Peter Zenger was charged with seditious libel for publishing newspapers criticizing the governor of New York.

The law at the time left to the jury to decide only whether Zenger had published the papers. At the time in early America, the court decided whether the papers were libelous. Zenger’s defense attorney was none other than Andrew Hamilton.

Hamilton had argued that “leaving it to the judgment of the Court, whether the words are libelous or not, in effect renders juries useless.

Andrew Hamilton Quote:

“Gentlemen, the danger is great, in proportion to the mischief that may happen through our too great credulity. A proper confidence in a court is commendable; but as the verdict (whatever it is) will be yours, you ought to refer no part of your duty to the direction of other persons. … It is your right to do so, and there is much depending on your resolution, as well as upon your integrity.”

FUGUITIVE SLAVE LAWS – A Test of Jury Nullification

Courtesy Tenth Amendment Center:  https://blog.tenthamendmentcenter.com/2017/07/nullifying-the-fugitive-slave-act/

In 1850, President Millard Fillmore signed the “Fugitive Slave Act” into law, prompting abolitionist Northern States to attack this unjust law with nullification.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 counts as one of the most reprehensible laws in American history. It denied a black person accused of escaping slavery any semblance of due process. A white man could basically drag a black person south into slavery merely on the power of his word. This even put people born free in the North under the constant threat of being snatched up and sent to slavery.

But rather than wait for Congress or the federal Courts to overturn it, Northern abolitionists used every tool possible to resist it. The most famous example was the underground railroad, but abolitionists also used state-nullification to help stop the enforcement of this federal act.

On November 13, 1850, the Vermont legislature passed a bill known as the “Habeas Corpus Act.” It required the state to “protect and defend…any person in Vermont arrested or claimed as a fugitive slave.”

The Michigan Personal Freedom Act guaranteed any man or woman claimed as a fugitive slave, “all the benefits of the writ of habeas corpus and of trial by jury.” It also prohibited the feds from using state or local jails for the purposes of holding an accused fugitive slave, and made any attempt to send a freedman South into slavery a crime.

A Massachusetts Personal Liberty Act called for the removal of any state official who aided in the return of runaway slaves and disbarment of attorneys assisting in fugitive slave rendition.

Another section authorized impeachment of state judges who accepted federal commissioner positions authorizing them to prosecute fugitive slaves.

Famous abolitionists publicly supported these efforts. John Greenleaf Whittier said, “So far as that law is concerned, I am a nullifier.” And William Lloyd Garrison supported him when he wrote, “The nullification advocated by Mr. Whittier…is loyalty to goodness.”


In our current day situation we continue to face the struggle of tension between the courts and citizen jurors who take up the power vested in every trial juror to decide the facts AND the law, and vote with their conscience in ANY case where the laws are bad, or they are applied in a manner that is corrupt. (See www.SundayRants.com)

With thousands of exonerations of wrongfully convicted victims, (https://www.nealdavislaw.com/criminal-defense-guides/exonerations-by-state-2019.html)

We hardly have a judicial system that can be cited as “equal”! In fact two-thirds of these victims were black, making worse the fact that race motivated prosecutions were the real crime!

“Whenever the powers of government are abused by those entrusted to uphold and enforce the laws, the people have no obligation to uphold the laws when judging the guilt or innocence of any defendant.”

James Harnsberger, State Director CAL-FIJA


Our nation faces a crisis of confidence in the institutions of government at all levels. This is especially true in the criminal justice system.

With hard evidence of thousands of cases of police misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, purging Black and Hispanic jurors solely on the basis of race, investigators who fabricate evidence, police who plant evidence, and judges who allow these acts to continue, one of our most basic powers is that of Nullification.

YOU, and YOU alone have the raw power to decide both the law and the facts in a criminal case and vote NOT GUILTY! The judge may NOT direct your verdict or call for a special verdict!

We have reached an epidemic of corruption throughout the entire justice system!

The court system is an abject failure in every case where an innocent man or woman has been exonerated and remains an insult to any defendant charged with a crime when it allows so many within it to escape consequences for their crimes that result in the incarceration of even a SINGLE victim let alone the thousands we have cataloged. (www.SundayRants.com)

JOIN US TODAY on this important mission!

As we begin our full organizational efforts and obtain our 501(c)(3) Non Profit Status, we will be impacting the current system and all of its corruption through exposing the corruption and legal abuses. In addition we will work to educate every community regarding PROJECT “Free The Innocent” and add to the tens of thousands of voices who demand meaningful reforms from a system that remains indifferent.

We must and with all haste, inform those we know and care about of this raw power to decide both the law and the facts in every criminal case and the power of each juror.

We win by educating ourselves on the history of nullification, and those we know so that we can create a climate of meaningful reforms that address the real problems in the criminal justice system!

Those who work in it that are corrupt must have no immunity from consequences in their misconduct! End Immunity for prosecutors, police, investigators.

Our efforts must be bold! Our message must remain clear, FREE THE INNOCENT!

We must speak and act without fear!


Our banner campaign begins in San Diego County, California as a 1-year pilot program to serve as a model throughout the entire state that demands our justice system “Free The Innocent” men and women who remain incarcerated for a crime they did not commit.

WHO must we speak to?

The list below is a starting point for our message


Civic Groups



Law Classes

Political Science Classes

Elected Officials local, county and state

Friend, relatives, associates

Business owners

Retired professionals

Police Departments

Bar Association groups

Law Firms

Any person who has five minutes of valued time to hear the truth. The truth that our State, our nation, our community incarcerates an alarming number of innocent men and women for crimes they did not commit.

WHAT is our ability to communicate this message?

We welcome and invite any and every opportunity to share this message with any and all of the following;

Working groups

One-on-one meetings


Social Media

Press and Media

Public Service Announcements


Hosting Events for round table discussions

Creating literature and materials

Interviews, radio shows, Television


Telling our family and friends

Every member of every community in California must know the tragedy of worngful convictions and the thousands of exonerated victims of a criminal justice system that is not equal nor fair. We must accept that as a society each of us has an unspoken moral duty to defend the innocent men and women convicted of a crime they did not commit.

Real change and meaningful reforms begins simply with,

Awareness, and with awareness comes,

Knowledge, and with knowledge comes,

Empowerment, and with empowerment comes,

Engagement, and with engagement comes,

Action and with action comes,

Reform, and with reform comes,

Freedom for the Innocent, and with

Freedom of the innocent it delivers an end to this tragedy.

© 2021 All Rights Reserved | CAL-FIJA | TERMS OF USE | PRIVACY | The California Fully Informed Jury Association| 8330 Allison Avenue Suite E La Mesa, CA 91942 | CAL-FIJA The California Fully Informed Jury Association is a Public Benefit Non-Profit Corporation and has its main focus on Public Awareness programs based in San Diego County, California. CAL-FIJA is a Non-Profit Organization under the IRS Code 501(c)(3). Gifts to CAL-FIJA may be tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law (EIN#: 87-1236607). Consult your tax advisor for questions regarding your specific tax situation. Our Primary Efforts are directed to Public Awareness of Wrongful Convictions and Trial Jury Reforms in criminal jury trials within the State of California and supporting efforts to exonerate wrongfully convicted defendants within the California criminal justice system.