In a criminal trial, a jury of your peers determines whether you are innocent or guilty of the crime with which you are charged. The jury comes to this decision by listening to witness testimony, evaluating the evidence presented, and considering the arguments of the prosecution and the defense. After hearing everything, the jury then meets to discuss and decide the outcome of your case. But what happens if it is obvious that you committed the crime? Is the jury required to find you guilty? Can the jury disagree with the letter of the law and let you go?
Jury nullification is when a jury refuses to follow the law and finds a criminal defendant either guilty or not guilty of a crime regardless of the facts. Generally, jurors are supposed to be unbiased bystanders who simply observe and make a final decision in a criminal matter. However, since jurors are human, this is not always the case. Although juries are supposed to follow the letter of the law and not decide what the law should be, juries sometimes use jury nullification in order to bypass written law. There are many reasons why jury nullification occurs, but the following are some of the more common reasons:
- Disagreement with the law;
- Emotions regarding the crime or the defendant;
- Disagreement with the punishment for a crime; or
- Disapproval of how the law is being applied;
Jury Nullification Effects
Although jury nullification seems to allow juries to circumvent the law, this does not mean that juries can legislate from the jury box and create new laws. Just because a jury in a trial uses jury nullification, this does not change the fact that the law the jury disagrees with is still the law. However, if jury nullification for a particular crime becomes commonplace, the law could become practically invalid since juries refuse to follow it. That behavior could lead the legislature to change the law in order to bring an end to future jury nullification.
Repercussions for Jury Nullification
Can the jury get in trouble for using jury nullification? Typically, the answer to this question is no. Jurors can’t be punished for their verdict in a trial, even if seems to violate the letter of the law. Additionally, a person who has been found not guilty of a crime due to jury nullification cannot be tried again. This is due to the fact that a second trial would violate the prohibition against double jeopardy given in the Constitution. However, a person who is convicted of a crime due to jury nullification can have their conviction overturned through the process of appeal or directly by the judge in certain states or jurisdictions.
If you or someone you know have been charged with a crime, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.