Jury Nullification is a concept that has been around since the 1600’s. It is the ability of a jury to nullify the law in connection with the case they are hearing. It is not a power that is discussed frequently but some find it to be a strength of our judicial system. If a jury agrees that a law is unjust, or that circumstances justify ignoring the law, they then have the power to reach a verdict that is very different from what usually happens. It is almost like a feature to all of us citizens that gives us great power in the court room and to permit justice in any unusual circumstances. In New Jersey this power was enacted upon when officers caught a man with a joint, and the jury found him not guilty. That man is now planning a jury nullification tour because he was so impressed by the power of it and amazed by how few people knew about it. This case was proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty because of our many laws banning marijuana, but because of the power of nullification, that is not what happened.
Unfair laws and overzealous prosecutions do nothing but hinder our society. Paul Butler understands this and in his article that we read he clearly points out all the positives of jury nullification. For example, in the Zenger case, an American revolutionary was accused of criminal charges when he published statements critical of English rule of the colonies. He wasn’t just accused of this crime, he was actually guilty! Zenger’s attorney disproved his guilt in his closing statement to the jury but said that the jury should decide whether the law itself was fair. The jury famously acquitted Zenger. The Zenger case came to stand for the idea that American juries have the power to overturn unfair laws and defeat overzealous prosecutors. I am personally thankful for cases like the Zenger case because it helps make me feel safer knowing that my peers potentially have the power to save me from going to prison if I am ever in an unfair situation. It is also beneficial in the sense that prosecutors who realize the power of this tool potentially respond in their case selection accordingly, “There is no evidence that juries nullified simply because they could. It was a power that they used sparingly, perhaps because prosecutors were careful about the cases that they brought, knowing jurors could check their power if they thought law enforcement was getting out of hand.” (Butler, pg. 47) Whether the issue is with alcohol or with weed the message is the same. Our government can make all the laws it wants to keep us from enjoying the things we love, but we as a people have the ability to fight it. The citizens who acquitted people during the prohibition for drinking are no different than the Arizonians acquitting people for smoking weed. We have rights in this country that allow us to fight injustice and it is these rules that make our country so great. We should all be telling our friends, families, and neighbors about jury nullification in the small chance that they might one day need to enact upon their rights and fight back against the man:)