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  • Jury Nullification.......

    .....is it a hindrance to justice or a blessing? Should more people be aware of their powers as a juror?

    I think so, all the bad guys would still get convicted, but perhaps the more questionable cases of "police brutality" or other such over-zealous prosecutions might result in aquittals, even if defendants were technically guilty.

    Any opinions from those that have seen their cases or cases against a friend/loved one affected by this?

  • #2
    One of the main reasons we utilize the jury system is so there will be discussion and consensus during the deliberation stage of the trial. If anyone refuses to consider the evidence, discuss the case with the other jurors and attempt to reach a consensus, it's usually due to some sort of prejudice and grounds for that juror being dismissed.

    A few years ago I ran into such a case during the trial of a suspect charged with robbery, attempted murder and multiple counts of burglary. The jury reached a consensus on the burglary counts, but two jurors refused to convict on the robbery/attempted murder counts even though the suspect's prints were found at the scene and during the interview he denied being in town when the crime occurred. During the trial, the suspect (after learning we had his prints and a photo line-up ID) claimed he "found" the victim in a coma and took the property we recovered in his possession at the time of arrest. He never explained why the shoe prints on her face matched the shoes he was wearing at the time of arrest. The two jurors who refused to convict were black (as was the suspect) and stated they didn't believe the suspect would "be so stupid" as to commit the most serious crimes. Although they never admitted going for the "race card", the other jurors sure believed that was the case (including another black juror). The suspect was convicted in the burglaries, the jury hung (10-2) on the robbery/attempted murder. I learned about the results while I was attending a homicide conference. The DDA handling the case, told me over my cell phone while I was literally sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in DC. It was a moment I'll never forget. She told me she was going home to "finish off a bottle of wine" when she hung up, crying. The suspect later pled guilty to reduced charges of ADW and simple robbery, rather than face a retrial. Any Adam Henry who considers himself or herself above the law can nullify the hard work of a good jury, although it isn't criminal it should be.
    "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

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    • #3
      Originally posted by pulicords View Post
      One of the main reasons we utilize the jury system is so there will be discussion and consensus during the deliberation stage of the trial. If anyone refuses to consider the evidence, discuss the case with the other jurors and attempt to reach a consensus, it's usually due to some sort of prejudice and grounds for that juror being dismissed.

      A few years ago I ran into such a case during the trial of a suspect charged with robbery, attempted murder and multiple counts of burglary. The jury reached a consensus on the burglary counts, but two jurors refused to convict on the robbery/attempted murder counts even though the suspect's prints were found at the scene and during the interview he denied being in town when the crime occurred. During the trial, the suspect (after learning we had his prints and a photo line-up ID) claimed he "found" the victim in a coma and took the property we recovered in his possession at the time of arrest. He never explained why the shoe prints on her face matched the shoes he was wearing at the time of arrest. The two jurors who refused to convict were black (as was the suspect) and stated they didn't believe the suspect would "be so stupid" as to commit the most serious crimes. Although they never admitted going for the "race card", the other jurors sure believed that was the case (including another black juror). The suspect was convicted in the burglaries, the jury hung (10-2) on the robbery/attempted murder. I learned about the results while I was attending a homicide conference. The DDA handling the case, told me over my cell phone while I was literally sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in DC. It was a moment I'll never forget. She told me she was going home to "finish off a bottle of wine" when she hung up, crying. The suspect later pled guilty to reduced charges of ADW and simple robbery, rather than face a retrial. Any Adam Henry who considers himself or herself above the law can nullify the hard work of a good jury, although it isn't criminal it should be.
      While I empathize with the situation, that doesn't sound like jury nullification to me. Sounds more like a juror who didn't believe the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect was guilty, a stupid conclusion from what it sounds like. Kinda like the OJ fiasco. What I meant was when the jury believes the evidence proves guilt, but vote not guilty because they feel the law itself is unjust.

      I am no constitutional expert, but isn't that one of the provisions, that a juror can vote not guilty if they feel the law is unjust?

      The last part of your comment scares me, and is why I will probably never be a juror. I can agree with 99% percent of the laws, but some are so whacked I could not go with on a moral level. The best example I can think of was a case I heard about, 2 11 year olds who had sexual contact with each other. From what I understand, both are being considered victim and perpetrator. No way I would vote guilty, I don't care what the evidence was.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by bigislander72 View Post
        .....is it a hindrance to justice or a blessing? Should more people be aware of their powers as a juror?

        I think so, all the bad guys would still get convicted, but perhaps the more questionable cases of "police brutality" or other such over-zealous prosecutions might result in aquittals, even if defendants were technically guilty.

        Any opinions from those that have seen their cases or cases against a friend/loved one affected by this?
        VERY SIMPLE: O J SIMPSON.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by bigislander72 View Post
          .....is it a hindrance to justice or a blessing? Should more people be aware of their powers as a juror?
          ...
          It can be either; the issue is complex.

          Historically, jury nullification has been the final check against government power that citizens have used to thwart the efforts of over-zealous government prosecutors and nullify unjust laws. Juries have the right to judge both the application of the law and the law itself. This is far different from a hung jury that cannot come to a unanimous conclusion about guilt or innocence. Jury nullification does not allow for a retrial of the charges because the jury returns a unanimous “not guilty” verdict.

          For me, the crux of the jury nullification issue is this: are modern jurors adequately equipped (intellectually and morally) to determine which efforts of the government are overzealous or which laws are unjust?

          During the first century and a half of American history, the populace was homogenous enough in their beliefs that social norms dictated the ideals of the majority in our society. Moreover, at the time juries were composed of mostly educated (or at least literate) people. Anyone who has watched interviews of recent jurors, even from the high profile cases, knows this is no longer true.

          Today, multiculturalism (right or wrong) is the standard. While it is true that Judeo-Christian values may still hold a slight advantage over competing ideologies in our society; that is rapidly changing. Today, American society can find few social norms that a majority hold true.

          Thus, I am torn. Philosophically, I strongly support jury nullification as a means to check arbitrary prosecution, over zealous application of government power, and unjust laws. However, pragmatically, I find it hard to trust that the average twenty-first century American juror has the intellectual capability to make morally/ethically sound judgments.

          Nevertheless, I feel compelled to follow the path of our Founders and err on the side of leaving such powers in the hands of the people. Therefore, I believe judges should explain jury nullification, during the jury instruction process, in such a way that makes its purpose clear. Our only hope is that jurors, entrusted with such power, will rise to the occasion and make sound judgments in the vast majority of cases.
          Phoenix

          "He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself." ~Thomas Paine

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          • #6
            Jury Nullification is antithetical to the jury process itself. Juries do not have the right, poweer or authority to decide on the validity of a law. That is the province of the appellate courts and the legislature. Juries are tasked with applying the law as defined by the presiding judge to the case at bar. Allowing 12 persons with no "legal" knowledge determine whether a law is just is a disaster waiting to happen. Laws bubble up from the cauldron of public opinion and are refined by the legislative process. The appellate courts then decide if the legislature met constitutional requirements. What you as an individual think of the law should be said to your elected representatives, not expressed by avoiding a difficult and unpleasant duty.

            I have watched criminal juries at work in NYC for the last 34 years, and am completely satisfied that our current system is the best available. And our jury pool runs the gamut from the nearly illiterate to the overeducated pompous upper eastsiders.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Dinosaur32 View Post
              Jury Nullification is antithetical to the jury process itself. Juries do not have the right, poweer or authority to decide on the validity of a law.
              Historically, that is incorrect. Jury nullification has a substantial history in the Western legal tradition dating back to the Magna Carta (1215). A couple of its more notable supporters were Chief Justice John Jay (First Supreme Court Chief Justice), and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Famous Supreme Court Justice and.)

              The following quote by John Jay may be of particular interest since he was one of America's Founders, a principle contributor to the Federalist Papers, and the first Chief Justice of U.S. Supreme court. While instructing a jury he stated the following:
              "It may not be amiss, here, Gentlemen, to remind you of the good old rule, that on questions of fact, it is the province of the jury, on questions of law, it is the province of the court to decide. But it must be observed that by the same law, which recognizes this reasonable distribution of jurisdiction, you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy." - Georgia v. Brailsford (1794)

              Like it or not, jury nullification is a historical fact. Moreover, it is codified in a least a couple of State Constitutions. Do some research; it is quite enlightening.
              Last edited by Phoenix; 05-30-2007, 10:23 PM.
              Phoenix

              "He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself." ~Thomas Paine

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by bigislander72 View Post
                While I empathize with the situation, that doesn't sound like jury nullification to me. Sounds more like a juror who didn't believe the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect was guilty, a stupid conclusion from what it sounds like. Kinda like the OJ fiasco. What I meant was when the jury believes the evidence proves guilt, but vote not guilty because they feel the law itself is unjust.

                I am no constitutional expert, but isn't that one of the provisions, that a juror can vote not guilty if they feel the law is unjust?

                The last part of your comment scares me, and is why I will probably never be a juror. I can agree with 99% percent of the laws, but some are so whacked I could not go with on a moral level. The best example I can think of was a case I heard about, 2 11 year olds who had sexual contact with each other. From what I understand, both are being considered victim and perpetrator. No way I would vote guilty, I don't care what the evidence was.
                In this case (as I believe in the OJ case) the votes for not guilty were not due to "reasonable doubt" there was clearly enough evidence, but the two jurors weren't interested in discussing it. Not "being too stupid" to commit the offense totally ignored the evidence provided. Why? Probably due to the fact that the two jurors in question felt a closer association to the defendant than they did to the victim. When jurors are selected, they are picked because they have convinced the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney that they can be fair, impartial and rely on the evidence to reach an opinion about whether or not the defendant committed the offense. Lying to get on a jury is every bit as destructive to our system as witnesses committing perjury while testifying. It is not up to any individual to deceive the court so they can do anything other than view the evidence and make an honest attempt at determining the facts. Jurors are not legal experts, have no right to judge the reasonableness of a law or right to undue what the people have (through legislative process) enacted as law. To take your analogy, peace officers should have every right to do what they think is correct (morally) in the field. See a rapist? Why make an arrest? Just execute him!!!!!! Watching TV causes so many people to believe they have the right to do what they think is morally correct, the system (legal) be damned. Believe me, if that was true, anarchy would be the rule (?) and you wouldn't like it a bit.

                One last point and war story. Shortly after the OJ "verdict", my partner and I arrested a F/B for a felony offense. A total, burned out crack addict with numerous medical (due to drug abuse), mental (same) and criminal issues. She wanted out of jail and asked if she could provide info that would help her case. After talking to her about who she knew and what type of offenses they were involved in, we asked if she could tell us about anyone involved in "really serious crimes, like say murder." The suspect said she'd try and we asked her, "Then who killed Ron and Nicole?"

                Her response was priceless, "Why OJ did! Everyone knows that!"

                The jury knew what she knew too, but chose to ignore the facts because of various social issues. They let down the system in a disgusting show of bigotry, personal politics and hate because "justice" really didn't mean **** to them. Two people were murdered and the killer was allowed to go free, for no other reason than the excuse that the killers of black people were allowed to go free in the past due to the same kind of bigotry, personal politics and hate. Maybe some day we'll have computers the equivalent to red light cameras which can see, hear and analyze evidence to give an honest verdict based upon the facts. I don't know if that will ever happen, but I'm not willing to give a pass to people who use their own "moral compass" to disregard evidence, laws and their sworn duty to tell the truth when they are in a position of such responsibility as being a juror. If you can't handle such responsibility, at least be honest enough to admit it to the court and you'll be sent home. We (the community at large) don't need liars in the jury box anymore than we need them on the witness stand.
                "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

                Comment


                • #9
                  I understand your concern about anarchy, and it is a valid point, but I don't see it happening. I still believe that the majority of cases will result in guilty verdicts, just the more unfair prosecutions would be thrown out.

                  You mentioned that jurors are not legal experts, and have no right to judge the validity of a law. By that measure, why are they allowed to judge guilt or innocence? Wouldn't a panel of administrative judges/police/forensic experts be more qualified to make such a decision? Apparently our founding fathers had trouble with that idea, thats why we have a jury of our peers, as flawed as it is.

                  The case you mentioned and the OJ case while quite possibly a case of disguised jury nullification is not quite the same thing. First, in your case, it seems only two of the jurors deadlocked on some of the charges. That means a hung jury and also means the defandant can be tried again correct?(was he?) Second, both of those cases, the jury said they weren't convinced of guilt. What I meant by JN is when the jury says "we know for sure the defendant is guilty, but choose to aquit anyway".

                  Anybody know of any true cases of JC by my specific definition. If so, can a judge turn an aquital into a mistrial?(I know that a conviction can be reversed in certain cases)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    A jury's purpose is to determine if the accused committed the acts alleged. They are not elected representatives of the people in a political process, and therefore are not to determine the validity of the law. I am not aware of any state that assigns enacting laws, or interpretation thereof, to juries. There is a process for changing laws, and it doesn't involve juries.
                    Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

                    I don't think It'll happen in the US because we don't trust our government. We are a country of skeptics, raised by skeptics, founded by skeptics. - Amaroq

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