THE STORY OF “BUSHELL’S CASE”

AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE RIGHT TO JURY TRIAL

I have found the story of “Bushell’s Case” to be a poignant reminder of the courage of those who sit in judgment upon their fellow citizen and the awesome power they have to do right.

“Some time ago I visited “Old Baileys,” which has stood for centuries as the criminal courts building in London, England. You know, the place where Rumpole practiced his art.

There is a cage-like dock in the center of the grand courtroom where the prisoners rise from the bowels of the building to confront their accuser and their fate.

And in “Old Baileys” there is but one plaque which adorns the walls. It commemorates “Bushell’s Case” from 1670. That plaque is a testament to the courage and endurance of Edward Bushell and eleven other proud jurors who refused to return the verdict that the King awaited. Twelve jurors who withstood two nights without food or drink because they refused to return the verdict that the King awaited.

Bushell and his fellow jurors refused to convict two Quaker preachers who were charged with preaching to an unlawful assembly in violation of the British Conventicle Act, which established the Church of England as the “Official Church.”

For their effort these twelve brave souls were fined and imprisoned for nine weeks for refusing to return the verdict that the King awaited. That ancient right of a juror to act according to his or her conscience is expressed in the Magna Carta and dates back to ancient Greece and Rome.

That man, that preacher who those courageous jurors saved was none other than William Penn, who later came to the Americas and founded Pennsylvania and Philadelphia where our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written. And the rights established in that case, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble, are now part of the 1st Amendment to our Constitution. As a consequence of these jurors’ imprisonment, Edward Bushell filed a writ of habeas corpus. He and the other recalcitrant jurors prevailed in the Court of Common Pleas, and the practice of punishing juries for verdicts unacceptable to the courts was abolished forever.

Jose Perales, who sits here before you today is no William Penn. But like that young Quaker preacher before him, Jose came to these shores to make a better life for himself and his young family.

But the hero of “Bushell’s Case” was not William Penn. The heroes of that historic case were those twelve earnest people, who like yourselves refused to return the verdict that the King awaited. You ladies and gentlemen, stand in the large shoes of those who came before.

For the jurors in “Bushell’s Case” were not Quakers. They did not take that courageous stand because they believed in the doctrine William Penn was preaching or because they had some stake in his cause. Those twelve jurors suffered mightily on a matter of principle, not their own but that of a lowly outcast who had gained disfavor with the Crown.

Like the jurors in “Bushell’s Case,” speak your conscience. Reunite Jose with his family and you, in a way you cannot yet understand, will be united with him as well.”

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