What is jury nullification and why is it important? The concept of jury nullification is actually simple; however, its legality can be somewhat complex. Jury nullification occurs when a jury finds defendant “Not Guilty,” but believes the defendant is guilty. The jury believes the law the defendant was charged under was wrongly applied to his or her case or is immoral.
What Are Qualifications of a Jury Member?
In order for someone to be chosen to sit on a jury, he or she must be at least 18, live for at least a year in the judicial district, be proficient in speaking, writing and listening to English, must not have a conviction for a felony or a felony charge pending and have no physical or mental conditions that would disqualify him or her.
According to the National Center for State Courts, each year, more than 32 million people are called for jury duty. Being selected to serve on a jury is part of the foundation of our justice system.
The Legality of Jury Nullification
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, jury nullification is legal; however, prosecutors and state courts aren't required to tell jurors that they have a right to jury nullification. Many judges around the country forbid the mention of it in the courtroom.
The right of juries to find a law morally wrong comes from the fact that juries can't be punished for their verdicts -– it doesn't matter how unpopular that verdict might be to the judge who presides over the case or the general public. In addition, a defendant cannot be tried again once he or she is found not guilty.
When Has Jury Nullification Been Used?
In the 1800s, citizens of all states were required to help law enforcement apprehend runaway slaves. This law was known as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and there were strict financial penalties for those who helped slaves escape, or gave them shelter or food. Northerners were able to protest this law by refusing to convict anyone who was charged with it. This was seen as “nullifying” the law on the grounds of morality. Other instances when jury nullification has been used is with laws on prohibition and certain drug laws that a jury does not agree with.
Want to Learn More About Jury Nullification?
If you would like to learn more about jury nullification, a local, experienced attorney can help. If you believe the law under which you were charged is morally wrong, there may be a chance that the jury could find you not guilty based on jury nullification.
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