What does the population want? Where does the population’s vote lay in reality? Most importantly, what does the population decide? All of these questions, at times, are answered by jury nullification. Let me take you all back to one of the most controversial eras of our time; Prohibition- Era. An era in which the population as a whole raised their voice and exercised the power of jury nullification.
The Prohibition- Era is a prime example of the power the population has and is able to exercise. During the 1930’s as many as 60 percent of alcohol control cases ended in acquittal! Can you guess what the population thought of the Prohibition-Era? It is this that reflects the true thoughts of the people. Through jury nullification, the people’s voice is not only heard but also their discontent with the law itself or with those that are supposed to voice the populations opinion but don’t.
Today, most states don’t notify the jury of the power they have to acquit the defendant. More precisely, the jury isn’t informed that they have the right to change the fate of the defendant by returning a “not guilty” verdict. This verdict is returned despite the absolute knowledge that the defendant is indeed guilty of the charged violation. However, the jury decides to acquit the defendant either because they believe that the law is immoral or it is wrongly applied to the defendant.
Jury nullification is the source in which we are able, as a society, to voice our outrage and decide against the government and most importantly the laws they wish, for us, to base our verdict upon. However, some believe that this power is not a right that should be practiced. One of the views is that we should only base our decision, as jurors, on the law, with no other intervention; especially not our conscience. That providing the jury with this information is a way for them to “make” the law. Even more so, they are cautious of jury nullification because after an acquittal, they are unable to have a second trial for the same crime; double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment.
I on the other hand am of the strong belief that when we have to decide the fate of another human being that we be able to have all of the information given to us and most importantly that our rights be notified to us. I ask you all, should we follow the law as sheep without a thought of our own or decide based on our own conscious?
Whether you oppose the jury being presented with this power or you’re a firm believer in the law, we must remember that jury nullification is a last refuge in which the population can change what they are at discontent with.
It is OUR job, as knowingly citizens, to advocate and inform the population of what jury nullification is and what it means to apply it as a juror. Will YOU advocate for OUR right to decide based on our conscience?