Many people’s first reaction to the concept of jury nullification is that criminals will be set free. While this is an understandable concern, it ignores the fact that under our legal system, the defendant is afforded the right to be tried according to ‘due process’ if brought before the law, and is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, justice – not punishment is - the ultimate goal of our legal system. Jury nullification recognizes that statutes cannot be crafted to address every conceivable situation, so a jury of one’s piers must be the final arbiters of the application of the law as well as the facts of the case.
Why is this so important?
Jury Duty and the history of jury duty used to be taught in elementary school history. Children used to learn about the Magna Carta ( THE GREAT CHARTER) as well as the story of William Pen's famous trial by jury. I didn't realize that back when I was a child in grade school in the '50s, public schools had already dropped this education. I was fortunate to have attended a private school that still taught this very important civic education.
Despite heavy pressure from the Lord Mayor to convict Penn, the jury returned a verdict of "not guilty". When invited by the judge to reconsider their verdict and to select a new foreman, they refused and were sent to a cell over several nights to mull over their decision. The Lord Mayor then told the jury, "You shall go together and bring in another verdict, or you shall starve", and not only had Penn sent to jail in loathsome Newgate Prison (on a charge of contempt of court), but the full jury followed him, and they were additionally fined the equivalent of a year’s wages each. The members of the jury, fighting their case from prison, managed to win the right for all English juries to be free from the control of judges. This case was one of the more important trials that shaped the future concept of American freedom (see jury nullification) and was a victory for the use of the writ of habeas corpus as a means of freeing those unlawfully detained.
Without this education, we have what can only be described as INJUSTICE in our courts today. Because of legal precedence set by Federal Court Appellate rulings, we now have the standardized
Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions.
The jurors have the power to ignore the court's instructions and bring in a not guilty verdict contrary to the law and the facts. Horning v. District of Columbia, 254 U.S. 135, 138, 41 S.Ct. 53, 54, 65 L.Ed. 185 (1920).
But they should not be told by the court that they have this power. United States v. Krzyske, 836 F.2d 1013, 1021 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 832, 109 S.Ct. 89, 102 L.Ed.2d 65 (1988); United States v. Avery, 717 F.2d 1020, 1027 (6th Cir.1983), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 905, 104 S.Ct. 1683, 80 L.Ed.2d 157 (1984); United States v. Burkhart, 501 F.2d 993, 996-997 (6th Cir.1974), cert. denied, 420 U.S. 946, 95 S.Ct. 1326, 43 L.Ed.2d 424 (1975).
They should instead be told that it is their duty to accept and apply the law as given to them by the court. United States v. Avery, supra at 1027.
Did you catch that? The courts know that we, as a self governing people, not only have retained the right to determine the facts involved but we also have retained the right to judge the law as well.
We, as a jury, are the checks and balance to keep our elected employees in line. It isn't enough to just be involved in the political process, although, I highly encourage it.
We aren't going to vote our way out of this mess we find ourselves in. Just take a look at how our prison population has exploded over the last decade. Then do a little research into your state Prison Industries and UNICOR Prison Industries.
Why are we sending our children to prison for possession of drugs when the same lawmakers who criminalize this behavior refuse to stop the flow of drugs into this country. Just ask any boarder patrol agent, like the two who were sent to prison for stopping a drug dealer. Ask anyone who lives along our southern boarder.
When the government own's and operates a for profit business of manufacturing and services, they need employees. When the same government can project growth and profit, they must be assured that the required number of convictions take place or they won't be able to meet their projected growth. Think about that for a minute. In order for a company to grow, it must also employ more people to produce the product.
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Download and share these Jury Duty Education Videos with others.
How A Jury Is Chosen: Jury History
Listen to this interview of a woman who sat on a jury.