No doubt the defendant has taken lessons from the Dear Leader. You don’t like the law just ignore it or do how you FEEL about it!
Jury nullification is a great power against unjust laws, just like state nullification.
A jury in New York City recently nullified a charge against a man from out of state who had a handgun in his vehicle. He admitted he had it in his glovebox but had forgot it was in there. He was facing a felony conviction and years in prison. I would have nullified the charge against him also.
Jury nullification serves as an important safeguard against unjust laws, as well as against the unfair application of well-intended laws, ie RomneyObamaCare.
That’s right! Ultimately legitmate power only comes from the people. That means a jury has the right to nullify the effect of a law by refusing to convict based on the law.
THOMAS JEFFERSON (1789): 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.
JOHN ADAMS (1771): It’s not only ....(the juror’s) right, but his duty, in that case, to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgement, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1804): Jurors should acquit even against the judge’s instruction....”if exercising their judgement with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction that the charge of the court is wrong.”
U.S. vs. DOUGHERTY (1972) [D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals]: The jury has....”unreviewable and irreversible power...to acquit in disregard of the instructions on the law given by the trial judge.”
Actually, jury nullification goes back to the beginnings of this nation
Jury nullification goes way back in this land, famously in colonial times when it was used to protect freedom of speech, later in prosecution of the Fugitive Slave Act and during Prohibition. Unfortunately, it was also abused during the Jim Crow days, exonerating obviously guilty whites of crimes against blacks. You take the bad with the good.
The power is absolute and constitutional, upheld multiple times. However, its application has been eroded by later decisions. By the late 1800s judges didn’t have to inform the jury of their power, and by the 1960s they were allowed to prevent the jury from being told in the courtroom that they had this power at all (a judge will declare a mistrial if the defense tries). This guy was simply trying to inform potential jury members of their legal power and their rights as citizens. Consider it Miranda for juries.
“It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision ... you have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy” — John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States
on the contrary...jury nullification is discussed at great length in the federalist papers. It is another way the population at large can over rule a bad or unfair law or to reneder moot prosecutorial misconduct. I agree with the premise as long as it is not abused ( example of abuse of jury nullification....OJ simpson )
Many prosecutors frequently behave illegitimately. In such cases, a jury who acquits someone who did a forbidden act would not be acting lawlessly, but would instead be upholding the law.
For example, cruel and unusual punishments are forbidden by the Constitution and are thus illegitimate. The Constitution does not specify any particular types of punishment as permissible nor forbidden, because what would be a reasonable punishment for one crime might be grossly unreasonable for another. Further, the reasonableness of a particular sentence in many cases will depend not only on the particular statute violated, but on a variety of factors including the defendant's level of criminal intent. If the jury were to determine that given the facts of the case (including its judgment of the defendant's criminal intent or lack thereof) the defendant would receive a grossly unreasonable sentence if convicted, the jury would be duty-bound to acquit.
Note that many prosecutors and judges don't want jurors to know the sentences associated with crimes. That is because they know that jurors would likely stop them from imposing illegitimate cruel and unusual punishments.
Jurors should not be encouraged to acquit people lawlessly, but they need to be told that obeying the law does not imply obeying potentially-illegitimate instructions from a judge. Jurors have an obligation to uphold the Constitution and statutes, regardless of what a judge says. If a judge refuses to provide full information regarding the Constitution and statutes, a jury should regard as plausible the theory that something in the statutes they're not allowed to see would allow the render the defendant's action permissible--a perfectly fine basis for "reasonable doubt".
I would like to see groups like FIJA shifting their focus from being free of the law, to upholding the law. They'd find much broader support, and would help expose much more of what's really going on.
(On a related note, I'd like to see a rule providing that the prosecutor must show that the defendant's conduct met not only the description of a criminal act within the text of a statute, but also conformed to some reasonable interpretation of the title of the forbidden act. For example, to convict someone of "unlawful use of a weapon", the prosecution should be required to show that the defendant actually used a weapon unlawfully, for some reasonable definition of "used". The prosecution wouldn't have to show that the defendant fired, displayed, or even handled the weapon, but would have to demonstrate that weapon played a material part in some criminal design by the defendant [e.g. the prosecutor could show that the defendant, while committing some other crime, carried a weapon for the purpose of being able to shoot his way out of any trouble he might encounter; the defense could argue that was not the defendant's purpose for carrying the weapon; a jury would then decide who they believe]. I suspect a lot of legislation is sufficiently sloppily written that such a requirement might render many statutes unenforceable; I'm not sure that would be a bad thing, though.)