For more than 25 years, Jury Rights Day has been celebrated on September 5 to commemorate the famous case of William Penn in 1670 which laid the foundation for the right that jurors have still today to conscientiously acquit someone by jury nullification.
The judge instructed the jurors to find Penn guilty. Edward Bushell and his fellow jurors refused to convict Penn, arrested in London for preaching an illegal religion (Quakerism) to those who voluntarily – but also illegally – gathered to listen.
Nine weeks later, after Bushell and three others had been imprisoned for this audacity in a brutal facility which withheld food and water, the English Court of Common Pleas voted to release them, and without forcing them to change their verdict.
This was a milestone in English-American legal tradition, because it not only established the power of the jury to find whatever verdict it wishes, without punishment, but also the rights of free speech and peaceable assembly.