Jury Nullification

Jury nullification occurs when a jury returns a verdict of “Not Guilty” despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged.  The jury in effect nullifies a law that it believes is either immoral or wrongly applied to the defendant whose fate that are charged with deciding.”

Good (in my opinion) examples of jury nullification:

  • Mercy killers like Dr. Jack Kevorkian
  • Minor drug offenders
  • Those harboring slaves in 1800s

This is a powerful mechanism by which a group of our “peers” can act as a direct judge of a law’s moral soundness. However, the danger of promoting jury nullification is that a jury could also use it to uphold immoral convictions. For example, a jury of racists could easily declare a white man not guilty for killing a black man, which sadly has a long historical precedent.

It’s a dangerous crack in our judicial system that could result in good as well as evil. Still, there is something very good about the people being able to decide questions of morality in such a direct manner. It certainly does bring to the forfront the flaws in our laws as well as our citizenry when they become too prevalent to ignore.

0 thoughts on “Jury Nullification

  1. Jamie

    This was one of my favorite “strange facts” I learned in law school. There is a very famous case, in Alaska I believe, whereby a man was charged and convicted with jury tampering for informing a jury of their right to nullification. An interesting act of paternalism by the state, to prevent information from reaching a citizenry that we require to make an informed decision. The name of the case eludes me, however.

    1. Lex Post author

      Yes, lawyers and judges I believe are not allowed to tell the jury of this right, nor argue for it. It’s a little absurd, but probably necessary to prevent the jury from being too philosophical in their deliberation on cases where the law is morally sound.


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