Jury Nullification

In our quest to determine a working definition of science and what a jury must do we stumbled upon the question of whether juries must find guilt if all of the elements of a crime are proven or can they simply ignore that portion of the jury instruction, given by the judge.

This line is from a model jury instruction available on LexisNexis: “If you all agree the state has proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, each of the three elements listed above, you must find the defendant “guilty.” Texas Criminal Pattern Jury Charges–Intoxication and Controlled Substances§ C5.4.

This is the Black’s Law Dictionary of definition of Jury Nullification:

Jury nullification– (1982) A jury’s knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury’s sense of justice, morality, or fairness. JURY NULLIFICATION, Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009), jury nullification

The bases of jury nullification reach back to the drafting and ratification of the Bill of Rights and are founding principles for Amendment VI of the Constitution. This ability to check the power of the legislature, by the people, seems applicable to what effect science can or will have in the courtroom.

Link: http://www.ajs.org/ajs/publications/Judicature_PDFs/911/Dann_911.pdf


3 thoughts on “Jury Nullification

  1. Jury nullification is certainly an interesting issue, especially when you look at it in light of the historical role of the jury in both England and America. Juries in America used to have much more power–both to decide facts and the law. Much of that power was eroded over time, but you could argue that cases like Apprendi and Booker have returned at least some small quantum of that power to juries. I’m actually in the middle of writing a piece talking about jury power. I’d love to chat with you about the topic if you’re interested in it!

  2. I believe there is need for further discussion about jury powers at the Grand Jury Level. If Grand Juries understood their powers the process would be enhanced and criminal justice would be more credible. It seems to me the prosecutors indict weak cases to give their future employers in the defense community some work. Better work at the Grand Jury level can determine more substantial probable cause, to bring out more substantial indictments. With the improvement in this phase of the criminal justice system, the courts would gain more credibility, fewer trials, many more pleas, and fewer attempts to “beat” the system. If the trial jury finds the accused not guilty, how did the initial indictment occur in the first place. Better education for Grand Juries would eliminate the ham sandwich argument and put the teeth of the citizen into the process. That was the intention of the constitution, and should be the intent of the citizen Grand Juror. f the prosecution is on notice of the thorough Grand Jury investigation, the Prosecutors preparation would be more thorough, convincing and credible to the trial jury.

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