Is there such a thing as "Jury Nullification?"

Let's first define what that is. The pamphlet jurors receive when chosen for jury duty usually contains such statements as: "It is imperative that the jurors in each case accept the law as the judge gives it to them. Jurors must base their verdicts on the judge's instructions as to the law rather than on their own notions of what the law is, or ought to be"; "The ruling of the judge involves questions of the law -- not of fact -- and must neither be questioned by the jury as to their correctness"; and "You must base your verdict on the evidence as you will hear it in court and stipulations made by the parties, and on the law as the judge will instruct you in it."

That's exactly what jurors do. They decide the facts from both sides of the story, just like a judge does, and then they apply the law to those facts, just like a judge does. If a jury decide the facts don't fit the charges about violating the law, they may set the defendant free. For example, a child steals a gallon of milk to feed their siblings and a millionaire adult steals a gallon of milk. The law essentially says don't steal. The jury decides the child didn't steal the milk the judge decides the millionaire did. Both the judge and the jury decided the facts but they did so differently. We are on the outside without hearing either case. We might feel the law says don't steal. However, we weren't asked to find the facts, the jury and the judge were. So essentially, let's not call a heart a spade, because we weren't there.

  • "The jury has an unreviewable and irreversible acquit in disregard of the instructions on the law given by the trial judge." U.S. v. Dougherty , 473 F 2nd 1113, 1139 (1972).

  • "If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the evidence." U.S. v. Moylan , 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (1969).

  • "The jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both the law and the facts." Oliver Wendell Holmes, Horning v. D.C. , 254 US 135 (1920)

  • "Jurors should acquit even against the judge's instructions...if exercising their judgment with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction that the charge of the court is wrong" Alexander Hamilton (1804).

  • "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its Constitution." Thomas Jefferson

  • "The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy" John Jay, the first chief justice of the US Supreme Court, SCOTUS, (1789).

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