Most people don’t know this, but a jury is completely allowed to find a person not guilty even if the evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the person is guilty. This is called Jury Nullification. Badger Lawyer
By Susu Jeffrey April 6, 2018
Don’t you wonder how all these police who shoot down black men get found innocent? What about environmental activists who get fined or jailed for nonviolent civil disobedience trying to stop dangerous industrial practices like the proposed Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline across the wild ricelands of northern Minnesota.
Well guess what! We have a legal route around racist laws and judges and instructions to the jury that defy common sense.
Check out the concept of “jury nullification.” Juries have the power to decide however they will. The jury IS SURPREME.
The concept of “jury nullification”
Juries have the power to decide guilty or not guilty. This nonsense about weeping jurors finding guilty people innocent or innocent people guilty is a charade.
Supporters can stand outside a court building with signs (attracting media) recommending VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE! and JURY NULLIFICATION! But here is the “Catch 22,” defendants and their lawyers are not allowed to inform jurors of their ultimate powers under threat of being jailed for contempt of court. But outside the building is fair game for education.
“Jury nullification is when members of a jury vote a defendant not guilty for any reason that a juror pleases regardless of law, facts, and judge’s instructions. Maybe a juror does not support a government’s law, or does not believe it is constitutional or humane, or does not support a possible punishment for breaking a government’s law. No one has the right to challenge a juror’s reason for voting “not guilty” [or guilty]. There is no legal punishment for a juror complying with her/his own conscience and opinions while voting “not guilty.” Judges are not likely to tell the jurors about this right they have.
“Jury nullification has been considered the greatest form of direct democracy where a citizen can have a direct say in whether a law is acceptable or should be nullified.”
Jury nullification comes down from the 12th century Magna Carta into English and now American Common Law. It is part of our commons, water, air, land and common law.
To update jury nullification for today I want to see a pipeline trial film like Jane Fonda’s (nuclear power fiasco) “The China Syndrome” and I want to see Dave Chappelle’s take on black victims of cop racial fears.
By the late 17th century, the court’s power to punish juries was removed in Bushel’s Case involving a juror on the case against William Penn. Penn and William Mead had been arrested in 1670 for illegally preaching a Quaker sermon and disturbing the peace, but four jurors, led by Edward Bushell, refused to find them guilty. Instead of dismissing the jury, the judge sent them back for further deliberations. Despite the judge demanding a guilty verdict, the jury this time unanimously found Penn guilty of preaching but acquitted him on the charge of disturbing the peace and acquitted Mead of all charges. The jury was then subsequently kept for three days without “meat, drink, fire and tobacco” to force them to bring in a guilty verdict; when they failed to do so the judge ended the trial. As punishment the judge ordered the jurors imprisoned until they paid a fine to the court. Four jurors refused to pay the fine, and after several months, Edward Bushell sought a writ of habeas corpus. Chief Justice Vaughan, sitting on the Court of Common Pleas, discharged the writ, released them, called the power to punish a jury “absurd”, and forbade judges from punishing jurors for returning a verdict the judge disagreed with. This series of events is considered a significant milestone in the history of jury nullification. The particular case is celebrated in a plaque displayed in the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey) in London. Wikipedia
John Peter Zenger
The most famous colonial example of jury nullification was the case of John Peter Zenger, the only printer in New York who would publish material
without the authorization of the British mayor. Under British law, printing
such material was criminal sedition and truth was no defense to the charge.
Zenger’s lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, told the jurors that they “ha[d] the right
beyond all dispute to determine both the law and the fact[s].” The jury followed his advice, acquitted Zenger, and again demonstrated the jury’s role as
the ultimate arbiter of criminal disputes. Duke Law Scholarship Repository
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