Something not well known or understood by the average citizen but of vital importance in our government of, by and for the people is jury nullification. It has been defined as rendering a verdict by a trial jury acquitting a defendant despite the defendants violation of the letter of the law. And as "the raw power to set an accused free for any reason or for no reason". John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court said "the jury has the right to judge both law as well as the fact in controversy".
Once you are selected for jury duty nobody will inform you of your power to judge both the law and the fact. You are expected to know that you have such power. Both judges and prosecutors hope you don't know. Your ignorance grants them more power and most of them love power.
As a juror you do not have to explain your decision. Not to the judge or other jurors. "I don't think it's right", or "this is a petty charge that isn't worth the trouble and expense of an arrest and trial" are sufficient reasons. Jury nullification sends a message to judges, prosecutors and lawmakers about the priorities of the people they serve. It tells them what laws we consider unjust or to have been unfairly applied. Justice is more important than a specific law.
A not guilty verdict by a jury is final.
A jury cannot be punished for it's verdict.
If you find yourself on an angry jury that is 11 to 1 against you, hold your ground. They have no more rights than you. Numbers add up to nothing unless it's unanimous. I've been in that situation. I had an enraged and very large man in my face screaming "the law is the law" over and over again until he was in tears. His fragile worldview may have been inflexible, but it wasn't as important as going home. When the foreman reported a hung jury the judge said we would be impaneled until we reached a verdict. Two hours later they had all decided that maybe it wasn't such a big deal that a college kid was caught with a "roach" in his car ashtray. They offered numerous possible explanations, "a friend could have put it there", and the 'law is the law' guy even said "hell, the damn cops might have put it there, doesn't matter, this is all out of proportion, we're shooting a "roach" with a shotgun, let's get home".
Jury nullification is as important as voting. That's how we citizens control our government.
Control the Government
Dang, Jeep, you sound all lawyerly. You are damned right that we have the right to decide if a law sucks or is applied wrong. Once we elect someone or they get appointed they tend to get big headed and think they know what's best. The lege is always cranking out dumb laws that need to be nullified in the jury room. They think being strict on law and order will get them elected and reelected. They don't stop to consider the cost or the damage done by the laws and their overly strict enforcement. The marijuana laws (as in your example) are some of the worst as far as damage and wasted money. If the DA knew that no jury was going to convict on maryjane, he's stop pressing charges. If the DA wouldn't bring charges the cops would eventually stop busting people. And a whole lot of time and money wouldn't be wasted. BUT, look at the poor turnout for that MJ initiative some time ago. It was dismal. In a town where half the population smokes weed. Sheeple.
If they won't even vote they aren't likely to have any backbone in a jury room.
I'd rather be tried by twelve than carried by six
The jury has been called the fourth branch of government.
"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of it's constitution." - Thomas Jefferson
"The jury...the heart and lungs of liberty." - John Adams
Voir Dire (Fr. 'to speak the truth'), jury selection - If you intend to serve, the less said, the better. Never mention jury nullification. Don't lie but don't say more than is necessary. Usually the judge and the prosecutor will not mention nullification. Follow their example.
"Runaway Jury" - Under no circumstances must a jury commit injustice. Jury nullification is a doctrine of mercy not anarchy.
Fully Informed Jury Association
Jury Nullification: The Top Secret Constitutional Right
A good site with a little history on this subject.
Lone Star FIJA
|All times are GMT -6. The time now is 05:56 PM.|
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.