Jury Nullification
Posted 4/25/08 , edited 4/26/08
Jury Nullification means that in the US, if you are assigned to jury duty and are given a case in which the person obviously broke the law, but the law itself is perceived by you as unjust, you have the right and the power to find the defendant 'not guilty' anyway.

by way of example, suppose the following happened in the US instead of england;

in england, a woman gave her daughter a bit of sausage, and the child dropped it on the ground. the birds ate the sausage and the evidence disappeared. nevertheless, the plainclothes 'litter police' who witnessed this, gave her a ticket resulting in a 75 pound ($150) find for 'littering', and the english government upheld the fine.

if this happened in the US, and the woman managed to get this to be tried by jury, supposing you were one of the 12 jurors. supposing the woman was a very poor asian woman, a penniless widow. suppose furthermore that the 'litter police' actually got the 'offense' on film and showed absolute proof in court.

the evidence is presented to you as one of 12 jurors. the woman obviously broke the law. she is shown on film as the sausage bit hits the ground. the prosecutor heartlessly sticks his nose in your face and says, "It is the law! And if the law was broken, you must do your duty and find the defendant guilty as charged!"

in closed-room deliberations, the other 11 jurors all look around at each other and nod their heads. 'Yup. She dropped the sausage. Guilty as charged!' an open vote is taken, and all agree, the penniless asian widow must pay the $150 fine. all 11 have taken a voice vote, and everyone looks at you because you haven't voted yet.

in fact, you say, "Wait a minute."

What?!!! You dared to hesitate?

Then you say, "I as a juror have the right and the duty to decide not only if the law was broken, but if the law is being applied justly and appropriately, and if the law is a good law in the first place and deserves to be applied at all. That is my duty. Chief Justice John Jay, one of the Founding Fathers of the USA, said so."
Posted 4/26/08 , edited 4/27/08
Chief Justice John Jay said (speaking of citizens who become jurors) : "It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision." "...you have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy".

Thus, in an American courtroom there are in a sense twelve judges in attendance, not just one. And they are there with the power to review the law as well as the facts.

I will offer another example. There was a man who was throwing french fries to the seagulls. One fry fell on the ground before a seagull quickly swooped down and got it. However, the opportunist 'litter police' wrote him a ticket for 'littering'.

Suppose it was in the US, and that they even got the evidence on film, and neatly cut off the vid just before another seagull swooped on the 'evidence' and ate the french fry that hit the ground. Assuming he took this to court and demanded a jury trial, the prosecutor would show the film, and turn to you the jury and demand a mindless verdict of 'guilty'. However, what Supreme Court Justice John Jay was talking about is that you as the jury have the power to say, "The 'litter law' was applied inappropriately and the verdict is 'not guilty'."

You as juror may be challenged; They had evidence on film. The law was explained to you clearly. So on and so on.

Nevertheless, you as juror are a member of a body of 12 'judges' of both the law, the law's appropriateness to the situation, and the crime. No one may second-guess your opinion. Once you have decided, that's it. No one may demand a retrial. You do not actually have to explain why you voted 'not guilty'. But if you like, you can get into details and say that obviously the french fries were all being eaten up by the seagulls and the one that hit the ground was probably history by the time the 'litter cops' finished writing the guy the ticket.

You may use intelligent reasoning and exercise a sense of proper justice and find the defendant 'not guilty'.

This is called Jury Nullification. If you web search it, you will see that this is not a fantasy. It is your right as juror.
Posted 1/3/10 , edited 1/4/10
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