State Language on Jury Nullification
Citizens Must Claim Rights: Founders Gave Juries the Right to Determine Law
Some say jury nullification is the most practical way to stop the juggernaut police state.
By Tom Stahl
The Washington Post published a front page story entitled, “In Jury Rooms, a Form of Civil Protest Grows,” last year. According to the Post article, jurors are not always following judges’ instructions to the letter.
The article recounted that sometimes in jury trials, when those facts which the judge chooses to allow into evidence indicate that the defendant broke the law, jurors look at the facts quite differently from the way the judge instructed them to. The jurors do not say, “On the basis of these facts the defendant is guilty.’’
Instead, the jurors say, “On the basis of these facts the law is wrong,” and they vote to acquit. Or, they may vote to acquit because they believe that the law is being unjustly applied, or because some government conduct in the case has been so egregious that they cannot reward it with a conviction.
In short, a passion for justice invades the jury room. The jurors begin judging the law and the government, as well as the facts, and they render their verdict according to conscience. This is called jury nullification.
Dr. Jack Kevorkian, recently convicted, was acquitted several times in the past, despite his admission of the government’s facts, of assisting the suicide of terminally ill patients who wanted to die. Those acquittals were probably due to jury nullification. And Kevorkian might have been acquitted again if the
trial judge had allowed him to present his evidence, testimony of the deceased’s relatives, to the jury. Acorollary of jury nullification is greater latitude for the jury to hear all of the evidence.
The Post took a dim view of this and suggested that jury nullification is an aberration, a kind of unintended and unwanted side-effect of our constitutional system of letting juries decide cases. But the Post couldn’t be more wrong. Far from being an unintended side-effect, jury nullification is explicitly
authorized in the constitutions of 24 states.
ALL CRIMINAL CASES
The constitutions of Maryland, Indiana, Oregon, and Georgia currently have provisions guaranteeing the right of jurors to “judge” or “determine” the law in “all criminal cases.”...