The Voice of the Jury

What does the population want? Where does the population’s vote lay in reality? Most importantly, what does the population decide? All of these questions, at times, are answered by jury nullification. Let me take you all back to one of the most controversial eras of our time; Prohibition- Era. An era in which the population as a whole raised their voice and exercised the power of jury nullification.

The Prohibition- Era is a prime example of the power the population has and is able to exercise. During the 1930’s as many as 60 percent of alcohol control cases ended in acquittal! Can you guess what the population thought of the Prohibition-Era? It is this that reflects the true thoughts of the people. Through jury nullification, the people’s voice is not only heard but also their discontent with the law itself or with those that are supposed to voice the populations opinion but don’t.

Today, most states don’t notify the jury of the power they have to acquit the defendant. More precisely, the jury isn’t informed that they have the right to change the fate of the defendant by returning a “not guilty” verdict. This verdict is returned despite the absolute knowledge that the defendant is indeed guilty of the charged violation. However, the jury decides to acquit the defendant either because they believe that the law is immoral or it is wrongly applied to the defendant.

tom-jeff

Jury nullification is the source in which we are able, as a society, to voice our outrage and decide against the government and most importantly the laws they wish, for us, to base our verdict upon. However, some believe that this power is not a right that should be practiced. One of the views is that we should only base our decision, as jurors, on the law, with no other intervention; especially not our conscience. That providing the jury with this information is a way for them to “make” the law. Even more so, they are cautious of jury nullification because after an acquittal, they are unable to have a second trial for the same crime; double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/double_jeopardy

I on the other hand am of the strong belief that when we have to decide the fate of another human being that we be able to have all of the information given to us and most importantly that our rights be notified to us. I ask you all, should we follow the law as sheep without a thought of our own or decide based on our own conscious?

JuryNullcpr0027

Whether you oppose the jury being presented with this power or you’re a firm believer in the law, we must remember that jury nullification is a last refuge in which the population can change what they are at discontent with.

It is OUR job, as knowingly citizens, to advocate and inform the population of what jury nullification is and what it means to apply it as a juror. Will YOU advocate for OUR right to decide based on our conscience?

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4 Responses to The Voice of the Jury

  1. bmfdub says:

    I prefer to look at a jury as a representative of society. If society believes that you are guilty, then guilty you are. On the other side of the coin, if society does not find guilt, then so be it. The decisions of juries should reflect societies view of the actions of defendants. While the societal view often dictates a guilty verdict from an unquestionable prosecution, each case is different

    While I do not refute jury nullification as a legitimate practice, I do not agree with a need to advise the ignorant of its existence. Those with mind enough to question legitimacy of court decisions should likely also have mind enough to realize that the decision is ultimately with the jury. However, the concept itself is counter to the notion of a just judicial system that is clung to by the ignorant.

    I guess what I am saying is that to inform a juror of their ability to nullify must not occur at the time of deliberation where it is likely to corrupt their decision with someone’s liberty at stake. Instead, it should come out in a discussion; somewhere where it could be given some context.

  2. seancity971 says:

    Jury Nullification, to me, shows how strong our judicial system is. We have the power to stop over zealous prosecution and unjust laws. We have the power to stop human rights abuses or infringements on personal freedoms for such minimal crimes as smoking a blunt. I appreciate your post for calling out this topic and I agree that this power is very strong and unique. Great post!

  3. dakotalarson says:

    Interesting post. I had never really known jury nullification was an option before this class, and I think this is one of the many controversial and debatable issues that relate to the topic of ethics in law. While I can always see both sides to an issue, I definitely feel that if jurors were notified that jury nullification is an option, it would create further flaws in our justice system and completely change the role of the jury. While I do believe the law needs to be interpreted to a certain degree, the extent of this should only go as far as the realm, facts, and evidence presented in the case. I believe this is why in most cases, the jury has to unanimously decide on the verdict.

    When thinking about the main reasons why I do not agree with jury nullification, I actually discovered that they are in response to the two reasons you stated in your post for when jurors can use jury nullification. First, you mentioned that they could do this when they think the law is wrongly applied to the defendant. In this case, I believe this would give the jury too much power and free reign. Jurors are normal citizens without law experience, and they should not be given the sole power to interpret the law. Second, you mentioned that they can acquit the defendant if they think the “law is immoral.” I have quite a large problem with this because I feel this reason has nothing to do with the case or defendant itself. Just because you do not agree with the law, yet believe the defendant is guilty, do you really think they should be acquitted just because of their own personal views?

    When you mentioned that jury nullification can represent the public’s opinion, this made me realize why I disliked Justice Handy so much in “The Case of the Speluncean Explorers” because I do not feel the public is not knowledgeable or experienced enough to make judgments without basing it on the written word alone. I feel that if jurors were notified of the option for jury nullification, they would be allowed to bring their own personal beliefs into the courtroom which is precisely what they are currently not allowed, or at least discouraged, to do. Emotions are too powerful to be taken into account. Of course, a juror cannot avoid personal beliefs or emotions, but I feel they would be blown out of proportion with jury nullification.

  4. legomez5 says:

    Jury nullification is one of those loop holes in the legal system that most know nothing about. i agree that everyone on a jury should know about this option available to them, but i do not think the lawyers, either side, should notify them of this. Reason being is it could be detrimental to the case. How will they go about knowing it? Good Question. i certainly do not want my tax dollars going towards a Jury training class, and i do not think many people would want to pay either. The ideal thing would be if everyone would go to their local library and read, but most wont. I stand by Jury nullification, and believe it has tremendous power.

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