jury nullification

Discussion in 'Legal' started by taliv, Jul 28, 2005.

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  1. taliv

    taliv Moderator Staff Member

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    fox has an opinion piece advocating jury nullification in cases like medical marijuana, and listing several examples when it was used throughout US history. It's a good read.

    When I had jury duty about two years ago in Ohio, the judge emphasized that jurors can only decide the facts and that the judge decides the law.

    I'd be willing to bet that if a judge campaigned on a juror's rights platform, they'd win in a landslide. It would be nice to see some of these turkeys defrocked.

    Anyways, it's important to realize that jury nullification is the LAST LINE of defense against stupid laws. And that this is extremely important for gun-related laws, because most gun cases should never get to the supreme court. they shouldn't get past the first jury.
     
  2. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    The Supreme Court has long held that nullification is a power, not a right, and has held that courts can instruct jury members not to do it. Of course, the jury can ignore those instructions at will and acquit regardless of the facts. Just remember that OJ's trial was probably the best example of nullification.
     
  3. Greg L

    Greg L Member

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    And while ignoring the judge's orders just keep repeating "I had reasonable doubts still" & shut up :evil: .

    There is a reason that jury nullification isn't too well known, it keeps the serfs from getting too uppity :fire: .
     
  4. Flyboy

    Flyboy Member

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    Actually, OJ's trials were a better example of the differing standards of evidence for criminal and civil trials. Based on what I've read since the trial, there was a lot of tainted evidence in the criminal trial (remember Mark Furhman?), and, without good, reliable, legally-valid evidence, convicting him would have been tough. In fact, convicting him would probably have required disregarding the judge's instructions regarding evidence. The civil case, with it's lower standars of proof (preponderance of the evidence, rather that reasonable doubt), makes it easier to decide in favor of the plaintiff.

    Better examples of jury nullification would be the William Penn case mentioned in the article, or the very famous case of John Peter Zenger, who was defended by Andrew Hamilton. In short, Zenger was a newspaperman accused of publishing "seditious libels." His paper was highly critical of the governor of New York; everything he said was true. Under English law at the time, truth was not a defense to libel; in fact, it was an aggravation (yes, you read that right). Hamilton (on behalf of his client) admitted to the publication of the papers and all written within them. The judge declared that "[t]he law is clear that you cannot justify a libel.... The jury may find that Zenger printed and published those papers, and leave to the Court to judge whether they are libelous." Hamilton's argument was eloquent and brilliant:
    The jury--hand-picked by the prosecution, I might add--defied the judge's order to find Zenger guilty.

    The Zenger case ought to be required reading for all high-school students in history class, but I can see where the government might object. :scrutiny:
     
  5. Waitone

    Waitone Member

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    I am of the opinion the dismissal of all charges, including conspiracy charges, against Michael Jackson was a classic example of jury nullification. Conspiracy charges are designed to get the alleged perp on something.
     
  6. RGO

    RGO Member

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    Nothing in the Constitution prohibits jury nullification.
     
  7. armedandsafe

    armedandsafe Member

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    Take a look here.

    http://www.fija.org/

    Pops
     
  8. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

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    If that was the best, I'd sure hate to encounter the worst in a dark alley.
     
  9. publius

    publius Member

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  10. Mad Man

    Mad Man Member

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    http://instapundit.com/lawrev/conradrv.htm

    Book review of Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine. By Clay S. Conrad.
    Reviewed by Glenn Reynolds

    [BLOCKQUOTE]
    They tried to kill my brother. After beating a man whom they had picked at random and leaving him in a parking lot, my brother's attackers were fleeing the scene. They piled into a Honda Accord and started the engine. My brother, along with several of his friends, saw them and gave chase. More brave than sensible, my brother placed himself in front of the car to block their escape. "Run the mother????er down," one of the car's occupants reportedly said. And that's what they did, though miraculously my brother escaped without serious injury.

    Witnesses got the license number, and eventually the case came to trial. Though guilt was clearly established, both by eyewitness testimony and a confession, my brother's tormentors never did any jail time. They were put on the street by people who didn't think that aggravated assault and attempted murder were a reason for these young men - one of them the son of an executive at a prominent local company - to go to jail. Jury nullification? Oh, no. It was a plea bargain by prosecutors approved by a judge who tried to talk my brother out of bringing the case at all. "It's pretty hard to put people in jail in this state," a downtown criminal lawyer told me, "as long as there are no drugs involved."

    I mention this bit of recent family history not because it is unusual, but because it is not. Every day, in courtrooms around the nation, cases like this end with the defendants being placed on probation, sent into diversion programs, or - perhaps most commonly - not prosecuted at all. At every stage up to the trial, state actors have discretion to drop prosecution, reduce the charges, or approve probation or diversion. That discretion is almost entirely unreviewable. It is also almost entirely without remark or inquiry.

    Had my brother's case made it to a jury, a conviction would have been likely. The prosecutor and judge, however, apparently felt that justice would not be served by sending the son of a local business leader - even one with prior offenses on his record - off to jail. Yet strangely enough, the notion that a jury might have discretion to make the same kind of judgment appears shocking, even un-American, to many. Jurors are unaccountable, after all (though prosecutors and judges are not especially accountable either, and are also shielded by absolute immunity).

    Historically, this trust of prosecutors and judges over jurors is a relatively recent innovation, and it may not be entirely merited. Despite all the famous cases of alleged juror nullification, it is "prosecutorial nullification" - more commonly known as "prosecutorial discretion" - that plays the greatest part in keeping malefactors out of jail. Given that both kinds of nullification exist, which is more likely to constitute an abuse of discretion, or to take place in opposition to the values of the community? As Clay S. Conrad's book makes clear, the answer is not as easy as most modern discussion would have it. ....
    [/BLOCKQUOTE]

    Emphasis added. Read the rest of this review at http://instapundit.com/lawrev/conradrv.htm
     
  11. Aguila Blanca

    Aguila Blanca Member

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    I'm not certain, but I don't think that's exactly accurate. I believe the SCOTUS ruled that jury nullification is a right, but that judges are not required to inform juries that they have that right.

    I have seen it argued that it is not only a right but a duty.

    It's a pretty sad day when the SCOTUS rules that judges are allowed to deceive jurors in matters that may involve the life or death of citizens.
     
  12. Control Group

    Control Group Member

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    I can't find a reference quickly, but I'm reasonably sure the Supreme Court's position didn't define jury nullification as either a right or a power, but simply as a feature of a legal system which depends on closed-room jury deliberations. Which it is.

    I look at it this way: I don't care in the slightest what a judge tells me I need to decide on, beyond needing to know the exact laws that the defendent is accused of breaking. Whether or not the defendent broke the law is the vast majority of my decision-making process, but not all of it. As a juror, I am not just a computer, I am a moral actor in the decision who has been conscripted into service. I can't dodge the ethical implications of being responsible for a person either walking the streets or spending the rest of his life in prison. "I was just following orders" is not a legitimate defense.

    Jury nullification isn't a legal loophole of some kind, or a recognized power, it's an unavoidable consequence of a jury system. The judge can do all he wants to try and convince jurors that they have to ignore their own principles in favor of the law, and if he succeeds, then their principles weren't in conflict enough with what the prosecution was trying to accomplish for jury nullification to be valid.

    Which is why it's not something that jurors should need to be told about. In cases where it's appropriate, it will automatically happen, because you'll have people on the jury who refuse to convict someone for something which should not, in their minds, cause whatever sentence would be applied.
     
  13. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    In fact, the Constitution's guarantee of juries in criminal trials and the double jeopardy clause give rise to nullification. There is no nullification in civil cases because the court can just enter a JNOV if it appears the jury has ignored instructions.
     
  14. Nicky Santoro

    Nicky Santoro Member

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    Being a juror means doing what is right, not necessarily what some political hack in black robes tells you to do. As a juror you don't have to explain what you do. The asshat in robes can't require you to explain yourself. If the judge doesn't like it he can pound it up his posterior. You are the final arbiter of justice. Do what is right.
     
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