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Jury Nullification: The Criminal Justice System’s Best-Kept Secret

There are many protections in the criminal justice system that were originally conceived so as to ensure that no matter how large the system grew, the people and society would be the checks and balances on the system. It is the reason why the system touts the mantra “innocent until proven guilty” and why there are limits on the types of evidence that may be brought against a criminal defendant, the number of times he/she may be tried for the same crime, and who can hand down the verdicts.

Purpose Behind Juries

Juries are an impartial group of people who are supposed to be the criminal defendants’ peers. This ensures that there are people who assess the facts and hand down a verdict on what the facts say, who simultaneously evaluate the totality of circumstances where mitigating factors may provide for a lessening of the a harsh punishment. The hope is that because nothing in the system is black and white, the jury can distinguish the various shades of grey. One of the significant checks and balances but not well known or spoke about is the right of jury nullification.

Jury Nullification

Jury nullification is the right of juries to decide to not prosecute a defendant because they believe that a criminal law is unjust. This right permits the jury to acquit the defendant, even in the face of the facts and even if the juror believes that the criminal defendant is actually guilty of the offense that he/she is on trial for. This right for jury nullification is protected by the First Amendment, because a juror’s vote is considered to be a form of speech. It is a belief that through their duty as jurors, they are allow to invoke and espouse. The reason that jury nullification tends to be a secret course of action is because there is fear that jury nullification, used in a widespread manner, would dismantle the criminal justice system because the jury would no longer hand down verdicts out of principle rather than because of the facts of the case.

Is Informing a Jury about Jury Nullification “Jury Tampering”?

Surprisingly, in a recent case, an activist intent on teaching jurors about their jury nullification right was charged with jury tampering for passing out leaflets. The judge, however, found that this was not a case of jury tampering. Jury tampering occurs when the person knowingly attempts to influence a juror and his/her decision on an impending case through a written communication. The purpose for creating such an offense is to ensure that the criminal justice system functions by ensuring that juries are able to provide their decision and verdict without fear of any type of retaliatory action because of that decision. Without these types of protections, the purpose of an impartial and unbiased jury would be frustrated. The judge, in this case, declined to expand the scope of the meaning of written communication to include the leaflet written by the activist who stated that the leaflet was there to inform jurors of their right to acquit if they believe the law is incorrect, unjust, or the prosecution is malicious toward the defendant.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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