Talk:Jury nullification

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Archives[edit]

Racial Jury Verdicts[edit]

At the risk of sounding more "U.S. centric," all-white juries in the American South constantly threw away any charges against white citizens who had harmed (or even killed) black citizens, no matter what the law, evidence, or jury instructions were (see Emmett Till). Does this count as "jury nullification?" Because if it does, it seems like this pro-nullification article is ignoring one of the worst chapters in this country's history. --76.16.163.91 20:34, 29 January 2007 (UTC)


I think that while the Emmett Till case may reveal many things, it does not highlight jury nullification. There must be other cases besides the well-known fictional "To Kill a Mockingbird" that would show the negative effects of jury nullification. It is important to show both positive and negative uses of a process because otherwise the article looks like propaganda, besides being less useful for people doing research in how to improve the use of the process under discussion. Rampiance (talk) 00:58, 14 April 2011 (UTC)Rampiance
The Emmett Till case may highlight what happens when the jury is improperly screened, without both the prosecutor and the defendant making sure that there are no overt prejudices that affect a potential juror's ability to impartially judge the case. The fact that there is an "all white" jury suggests that the screening was not effectively done. In race sensitive cases, it seems that the jury ideally would have the proportion of races that is reflected in the total population, rounded up if it is a fraction, so that there is at least one person on the jury of the minority race. It may be good to time index the cases cited in relation to whether such cases were tried before or after the inclusion of certain judicial procedures, like whether or not the Miranda rights were given and what kind of jury duty selection process was used (both in terms of who is eligible for jury duty, how the responsibility is rotated, how the jury is selected once the candidates have arrived on the appointed day, and in this case how many blacks were allowed to register to vote, how many were actually registered to vote at that time, how many were allowed to be on jury duty and how many actually were able to be jurors). Jury nullification may have a dark side and it may also be that some of the potential abuse may be covered by other checks and balances within the judicial system (or later on evolved to include checks and balances that were missing before).

I found this reference to jury nullification at another site: [1]

It seems that, even here, it would be good to work up a more precise definition of what "jury nullification" is. I would propose that jury nullification is "the right of the jury to decide, when the evidence shows a person to be in violation of an existing law, to decide that the law itself either does not apply or the law itself is unjust, and therefore be empowered to render a verdict of not guilty according to conscience inspite of the law". If this is clear enough, then the second question related to this issue is whether or not it is the duty of the court, or the option of the defendant or the defending attorney, to advise the jury of this right. I remember being advised, as a juror, that I was not allowed to judge the law itself or its application to this case, but only the evidence of whether or not the defendant was guilty or innocent in regard to the law. This advisement, common in modern court cases, would be in violation of both the right of a juror to decide on the applicability of the law to the case and the duty to be informed of this right, if jury nullification is a valid legal principle.75.142.156.33 (talk) 20:32, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

"Issues raised" changes[edit]

Somebody removed the third and fourth bullet points, and replaced them with the reasons why they removed them. I guess they don't know how to use the talk page? This had been left in the past three-four versions for some reason, sitting there looking all weird and suspicious with big [DELETE] labels like a shoddy government coverup. I replaced the third one, since their reasoning doesn't kill it, because if the authority is "questionable," then the issue is raised. Fourth one stays gone, but I got rid of the bullet entirely. 24.17.244.117 18:51, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

More comment[edit]

This article is obvious proof that the US Judicial system needs to be changed. Our consequences for law breaking are too harsh in some circumstances <marijuana cases, tax cases(since there IS NO ACTUAL LEGAL LAW FOR CITIZENS TO PAY DOMESTIC FEDERAL TAX {16TH AMENDMENT}[watch America:Freedom to Fascism], and not even close to harsh enough in other cases<rape, child molestation, woman beating>. More proof that action in needed is the FACT THAT JURY NULLIFICATION IS PERFECTLY LEGAL AND ALL JURORS/CITIZENS SHOULD BE ADVISED OF THEIR RIGHTS. Lawyers and defendants have their FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT- FREEDOM OF SPEECH to say what they wish on their behalf. This ridiculous behavior in our courts; withholding information that could change people's lives. The people that back this up should be ashamed!!Jizamie 18:22, 3 May 2007 (UTC)

Why don't you check out Title 26 of the United States Code. It requires you to pay federal income tax. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 99.67.228.210 (talk) 15:12, 5 September 2013 (UTC)

Actually, "unsigned," Title 26 makes it very difficult for anyone to know whether or not they are liable. If you study its history, as Peter Hendrickson has done, then it becomes pretty clear that you have to be exercising some kind of federal privilege to earn your money in order to be liable for the income tax. Most people don't exercise any such privilege, so most people aren't liable. It's a determination each person is left to make on his own, but you have to know how to make it and what to do about it when everyone else assumes you do exercise privilege and you are liable. Dscotese (talk) 05:19, 6 July 2014 (UTC)

Sorry, Dscotese, but that is utter nonsense and, as someone who posts at Hendrickson's web site, you are well aware of that. Famspear (talk) 13:02, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
No Worries, Famspear. Your claim on what is nonsense, having no supporting argument, is (very slightly) appreciated, but quite useless to me. Following is the position taken by those who understand Hendrickson's work (including myself):
  • "Taxable Income" can only mean what a person gets by exercising some kind of federal privilege, so those who exercise no such privilege are not liable for the tax.
When this position appears in the list of positions determined by the secretary to be frivolous, then I will have to find another way to avoid supporting the criminal organization we call "the federal government." If you'd like to help, something more concrete than "that is utter nonsense" would be better. Your comments on my talk page at least pointed to the tpgurus site, but it is full of examples of bad and disingenuous behaviors on the part of courts and NO reasoning or evidence to back up the claim that what he presents is "federal privilege" nonsense. For me, this is more evidence that he's right, not evidence that he's wrong. I pity you for the task you have undertaken. Your success means an ever more horrible world, and your failure means you're wasting your time. Dscotese (talk) 19:08, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
Dear Dscotese: No. The material at tpgurus does not contain any "bad and disingenuous behaviors" on the part of the courts. My task is to teach law and to edit Wikipedia. And no, my success at that does not mean "an ever more horrible world." I am not "claiming" anything about Hendrickson's tax evasion nonsense. I am laying down the law. And when I use the phrase "laying down the law," that is precisely what I mean. Anyway, rather than using this talk page for a discussion of tax evasion scams, I'd like to invite you to the quatloos forum (or to my talk page here in Wikipedia). If you're not interested, I understand. At any rate, my regards to you, and thank you for your contributions to Wikipedia. Yours, Famspear (talk) 16:38, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
This discussion has been moved to the talk pages for the users involved: Dscotese and Famspear

Dscotese (talk) 02:26, 23 September 2014 (UTC)

... in the UK[edit]

I've never heard the phrase "jury nullification", but I'm familiar with the idea that juries are able to ignore the explicit directions of the judge. I think the usual term for this in the UK is a rogue jury. A judge can threaten the jury with contempt of court, and throw them in prison, but when a jury is imprisoned by a judge for coming up with the "wrong" verdict, the public doesn't usually look too kindly on it.

I've created a redirect for Rogue jury to this page. Etrigan (talk) 09:04, 12 July 2009 (UTC)

I'm slightly fuzzy about the details, but as far as I remember, the Ponting case illustrated a quirk of the law where a civil servant, although nominally serving Queen and Country, was supposed to invest all their loyalty in the government minister above them, who represented the country, and this raised some interesting questions as to what was supposed to happen if a civil servant found that their minister had, say, committed murder or was defrauding the country or working for a foreign power. It seemed that the civil servant's duty was not to pass their information about the crime to anyone but their minister, who in this case would have been the person committing the crime, and who could then use the law to force their underlings to effectively become co-conspirators. If the civil servant was to try to pass information about the crime to the police they'd be breaking the law ... the police would pass the information up to the Home Secretary, who would then be duty bound to pass the dossier of evidence, unread, on to the minister involved for whatever action that minister deemed fit. The police would refuse to take action because they weren't legally supposed to be in possession of the information. As far as their own officials were concerned this seemed to put ministers beyond the law.

Ponting's jury effectively said, to hell with that, if a politician is screwing us over for personal advantage, or lying to cover up a petty mistake by their boss, and someone blows the whistle to the electorate to tell us what the scumbag is up to, and there are no meaningful implications for national security in releasing that information, we're not going to put that person in prison for telling us the truth, no matter what the judge says. So there. ErkDemon 07:09, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

Isn't the UK phrase a "perverse verdict"? I've certainly seen that in governmental papers. Loganberry (Talk) 15:47, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

Comment[edit]

Camden 28. Go to www.camden28.org. US 1973 Antiwar trial. Defendants found not guilty by jury despite being caught in act of the distruction of draft files.— Preceding unsigned comment added by Pbcouming (talkcontribs) 14:10, 13 July 2007

"Jury nullification" compared to "making legal arguments to the jury itself": Two different things[edit]

Need to double-check some recent additions to the article. The general rule in the United States is that neither party is allowed to argue to the jury itself that the law itself really is this way or really is that way. The jury renders a verdict, and a verdict only on questions of fact (or, as in some cases, mixed questions of law and fact that are treated as questions of fact). For example, in a murder case the defendant is not generally allowed to persuade the jury that there is no law against murder, or to try to interpret the law for the jury. Likewise, the prosecution is not allowed to do this either. Instead, disagreements between prosecutor and defendant about what the law is are argued by both sides before the judge, who then makes a ruling. Then, prior to jury deliberations, the judge instructs the jury on the law. Juries render only verdicts on findings of fact. Judges render judgments and rulings on questions of law.

Maybe the article is trying to say something else, though. The article references two very old court cases from the 1800s (that I haven't read yet). The following cases -- which are much more recent, and which are higher courts -- are legally binding precedent. See United States v. Ambort, 405 F.3d 1109, 2005-2 U.S. Tax Cas. (CCH) paragr. 50,453 (10th Cir. 2005); United States v. Bonneau, 970 F.2d 929, 92-2 U.S. Tax Cas. (CCH) paragr. 50,385 (1st Cir. 1992); United States v. Willie, 91-2 U.S. Tax Cas. (CCH) paragr. 50,409 (10th Cir. 1991). If the old 1800s court cases somehow conflict with the newer appeals courts (and I haven't read the old cases), then the old cases would simply be deemed to have been overruled.

The concept of jury nullification is a separate concept, though. Jury nullification can occur, but that's separate from saying that there is a legal right in the United States for either party to, essentially, by-pass the judge and argue the law itself directly to the jury. To the best of my knowledge, there is no such general legal right.

If there's not really a conflict here, maybe the article should just be clarified. Famspear (talk) 20:40, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

I believe the introductory paragraph explains it well: Jury nullification is not about what the law says, but whether the law should be applied or not in the particular case. Right? Ratfox (talk) 04:02, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Lawful Excuse[edit]

The "Lawful Excuse" defense allows damage to be caused to property to prevent greater damage, an example of the spirit of the law is police breaking a window or door to enter a house if they believe the occupant may be in danger (the police are not liable for damage if the occupant is ok but didn't hear them knocking). Greenpeace recently used this defense when charged with causing $100,000 damage to a power station. Greenpeace admitted to the damage but argued their actions were an attempt to prevent greater damage caused by the CO2 emissions from the plant. The Jury returned a verdict of not guilty based on a genuine belief by the defendants that they were justified. As the defendants were aquitted despite a violation of the spirit of the law, is this a form of Jury Nullification? Wayne (talk) 03:55, 20 November 2008 (UTC)

What you are referring to is a necessity defense, and in the instant case it appears to be Jury Nullification, depending on the state... there was no "emergency" posed by the power plant's emissions that prevented greenpeace from availing itself of the court system rather than resorting to self-help by vandalism. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.178.240.41 (talk) 20:28, 13 November 2012 (UTC)

Background[edit]

Section implies that the law of the USA is always important in jury nullification. 87.194.198.122 (talk) 22:21, 17 January 2009 (UTC)

A few ideas to balance the US centric style.[edit]

Whilst you have brought in large area of British (mainly English and Welsh) facts neverthe less the opening paragraphs are somewhat US based. I have no knowledge whatsoever on anything other than the UK perspective (though as this contributes significantly to US law, it will at least set some history.

I am also a little bit concerned at why juries were created in the first place, you state that this is because they are believed to be free from bribery. Historically, trial by jury arose because of the difficulties of securing trial by ordeal, due to a change in church law. By that time juries already sat to decide if there was a primae facie case to answer (the modern equivalent being Grand Juries).

The history of trial by jury (in England and hence the US) is related to several important events, most notebly the Assizes of Clarendon, the Fourth Lantern Council and the Magna Carta.

It may be useful for you to have a look at some of the wikipedia sites listed below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_by_ordeal

"In the Assize of Clarendon, enacted in 1166 and the first great legislative act in the reign of the English Angevin King Henry II, the law of the land required that: "anyone, who shall be found, on the oath of the aforesaid [a jury], to be accused or notoriously suspect of having been a robber or murderer or thief, or a receiver of them ... be taken and put to the ordeal of water."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Lateran_Council

Canons 14-18. Rules on the conduct of the clergy including against such things as: non-celibate living, drunkenness, frequenting taverns, hunting, conducting trials by ordeal or combat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta

Though you may be best considering the uk statute site which says: http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?activeTextDocId=1517519

"NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor [X5 condemn him,] but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land."

Kind Regards

Andy Cheetham — Preceding unsigned comment added by 212.183.134.130 (talkcontribs) 23 June 2009


There are many different legal systems in the United States as there are many legal systems in the European Union. To provide a fair and accurate picture of jury nullification law in the United States separate sections are required to deal with the legal system in each state, and possibly other jurisdictions within the state depending on the constitution of that state. In at least one state UK common law can be used as a precedent, while another is based on the French system and does not use the common law.
The system of the Federal courts will also need their own section as well as a section detailing the inter-jurisdictional issues that might arise from such a diverse and complex set of legal systems. (97.83.129.60 (talk) 18:54, 27 April 2014 (UTC))<- I wrote this.(Drn8 (talk) 18:57, 27 April 2014 (UTC))

Poor Article[edit]

I have the feeling that a bunch of prelaw students got excited and wrote up some rubbish. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.158.210.185 (talk) 10:32, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Ditto this. The initial paragraph is basically incoherent. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 173.228.88.102 (talk) 06:48, 29 April 2011 (UTC)

Having re-read this in some depth, this is probably the worst piece I've read on Wikipedia. I'd recommend deleting it and starting from scratch rather than trying to edit it into something coherent. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 173.228.88.102 (talk) 06:54, 29 April 2011 (UTC)

Please fix this unintelligible sentence: "Others view it as a violation of the right to a jury trial that undermines the law." — Preceding unsigned comment added by 99.109.75.166 (talk) 00:06, 23 December 2011 (UTC)

Dark Side[edit]

Jury nullification works both ways. Juries acquitt persons proved to be guilty and convict persons when the state has failed to meet its burden of proof. --Jgard5000 (talk) 00:55, 16 September 2009 (UTC)jgard5000 In latter case, the judge could set aside the verdict as being contrary to the weight of the evidence although my experience has been that judge's are loath to do so. The defendant can also hope to obtain a reversal on appeal.--Jgard5000 (talk) 00:58, 16 September 2009 (UTC)jgard5000

Not Guilty versus Not Proven[edit]

There is frequently confusion over the apparent difference in meaning between these two verdicts. As I understand it, in law "Not Proven" and "Not Guilty" verdicts mean the same thing, and it's only public perception and common usage that differentiates between them. As it's currently written, the article tends to suggest that the difference is real in law. Perhaps someone who knows for sure could nail this down tight.

On a separate note, while it's commonly believed that Scottish juries return one or other of these verdicts as they see fit, is there any reliable information as to how common this practice actually is? I am Scottish myself and I don't particularly recall anything much about using these two verdicts to indicate either "he didn't do it" or "we think he did it, but the prosecution failed to prove its case".77.99.163.40 (talk) 07:43, 28 September 2009 (UTC)

Not guilty and not proven are the same. A plea of NG is not an assertion of innocence it essentially means prove it - if he state fails to prove the essential facts of the case beyond a reasonable doubt the jury's duty is to return a verdict of NG.--Jgard5000 (talk) 00:53, 2 October 2009 (UTC)jgard5000

IIRC 'Not Proven' is a verdict option only valid in Scotland. Important not to assume Scots Law = England+Wales Law = USA Law. Not sure when it is used or how often, rare, I think. ---19S.137.93.171 (talk) 09:36, 9 July 2011 (UTC)

I cant read this.[edit]

I read at a college level but the amount of fluff involved in this article is just jaw-dropping. I heard Jury Nullification was essentially the Jury saying "the defendant may be guilty, but that is irrelevant as we do not approve of the law he is being accused of breaking." I don't know if this is true, and the article does not help in understanding the topic. --98.170.236.116 (talk) 03:30, 1 January 2010 (UTC)

Did you make read as far as the first paragraph of the lead? Because it provides a very good definition of "Jury Nullification." Please be more specific about what problems you are having with the article. Just telling us how unhappy you are is less than helpful. You are also welcome to edit the article; for instance, to clean-up the language used or to add sources. Voiceofreason01 (talk) 13:19, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
I don't understand the article either. Does it mean that even if a jury finds the defendant guilty, they can declare him not guilty solely because they don't approve of the law that makes him guilty? If that's all it is, the article needs to be changed to describe it as simply as that. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 58.106.10.124 (talk) 01:33, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
Legally they aren't supposed to do that. They are only supposed to decide if the defendant broke the law or not, with no consideration for whether the law is just. However, the reality is that they will sometimes find the defendant innocent, even though they believe him to be guilty, if they consider the law to be unjust. StuRat (talk) 22:39, 20 July 2014 (UTC)

NPOV, again[edit]

Time to revive this issue, I think. A paragraph in the "Background" section of the article explicitly says, "in the most prevalent cases of jury nullification in its long history in the USA, its primary uses have been to nullify Fugitive Slave law and Prohibition enforcements. Individual abuses may occur, but the overall effect is beneficial." This is about as POV as you can get and I flagged it as such. User:Jaia—Preceding undated comment added 21:37, 25 January 2010 (UTC).

Removals[edit]

I am removing the portion where John Adams is claimed to have been a supporter of jury nullification. This quotation is taken out of context. Earlier in the 12 February 1771 diary entry quoted here, he weighed in on the roles of judges and juries, and the proper usage of general and special verdicts. In the quotation in question, he was talking about their role as a check on judicial power, not as a check on the legislature (and unjust laws). This becomes clear when the quote is placed in context, which I will do below.

Just before the quotation in question he stated that "The general rules of law and common regulations of society... are well enough known to ordinary jurors. The great principles of the [British] constitution are intimately known." [emphasis added]

Including the entire following paragraph, in which the quotation is located, shows that he is talking about abuse of power by judges, not jury nullification:

"Now, should the melancholy case arise that the judges should give their opinions to the jury against one of these fundamental principles, is a juror obliged to give his verdict generally, according to this direction, or even to find the fact specially, and submit the law to the court? Every man, of any feeling or conscience, will answer no. It is not only his right, but his duty, in that case, to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court [emphasis added]."

A general verdict (giving a verdict generally) means that the jury is determining which laws apply to the case, as well as interpreting the facts. A special verdict (giving a verdict specially) means that the jury informs the judge how they rule on the facts of the case, but defer to the judge on how the law applies to those facts. Adams was saying that when jurors were confident in their understanding of the law, they should render a general verdict. When they were unsure, they should leave the question of law to the court. When the judge and jury reached opposing conclusions regarding law, it was the duty of the jury to render a verdict according to their own interpretation of the law. He says nothing about the jury having a right or duty to ignore the law itself.

As the context shows, the quote has nothing to do with nullifying the law. He was only talking about the jury's duty to check arbitrary power of the judge.

[source: Adams, John. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Vol. II. Edited by Charles F. Adams. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1865. Pgs. 254-255)] —Preceding unsigned comment added by 67.163.171.195 (talk) 19:43, 2 July 2010 (UTC)


I also removed the mention of the Zenger Trial as an example of jury nullification. Andrew Hamilton's argument for the defense was not that the jury should ignore libel law. It was that the jury should render a general verdict and interpret the libel law in the manner that Hamilton was arguing, rather than in the manner in which the prosecution was arguing. Below is a brief description of each interpretation:

Hamilton argued that "truth ought to govern the whole affair of libels.” For his client to be labeled a libeler, he insisted, “the words themselves must be libelous, that is, false, scandalous, and seditious or else we are not guilty." (Pg. 32)

The prosecution had argued that truth was not relevant to whether or not a publication was libelous. He further argued that the truth of a publication was an "aggravation of the crime" because truth was more likely to cause harm to the victim's reputation. (Pg. 17) Chief Justice Holt agreed with the prosecution and prohibited Hamilton from proving the truth of the publication.

After Holt sided with the prosecution, Hamilton turned his attention to the jury and urged them to use his interpretation of libel law. The court was applying the law incorrectly. He expected that since they were drawn from the vicinity, that they would know the publication to be true. (Pg. 26, 28)

“The jury,” Chief Justice Holt scolded “may find that Zenger printed and published those papers, and leave it to the Court to judge whether they are libelous.” Hamilton refused to relent. He challenged Holt’s claim, insisting that the jury had “the right beyond all dispute to determine both the law and the fact; and where they do not doubt of the law, they ought to do so.” [emphasis added] (Pg. 28 for the exchange) Holt was trying to force the jury to render a special verdict. Hamilton was defending the jury's right to render a general verdict. He was NOT telling them to ignore the law. Quite the contrary. He was telling them to follow the law in reaching their verdict. He was just telling them to interpret the law differently than how the judge was instructing. Again, he was not telling them to ignore the law.

Holt eventually conceded and instructed the jury that they could determine “whether the words as set forth in the information make a libel.” The jury returned with an acquittal after only ten minutes of deliberation.

[source: John Peter Zenger et Al., A Brief Narrative of the Case and Trial of John Peter Zenger, Printer of the New York Weekly Journal, for a Libel, reprint, (New York: John Holt, 1770)]— Preceding unsigned comment added by 67.163.171.195 (talkcontribs) 20:37, 2 July 2010

Ploughshares Actions[edit]

It seems one of the most current instance of jury nullification are the pacifist "ploughshares actions". Their tactic is to vandalize a US military facility, then wait to get arested, then hope to exptablish a jury nullification precedent against the policies behind the facility. It has never been succesful in the US, where the judge specifically instructes the jury to rejects all religious/moral, or international law arguments, and prohibits any witnesses from making such arguments. But in Ireland, it was successful in getting a jury to acquit ploughshares actors who vandalized US aircraft stopping in Shannon en-route to Iraq. Can someone with some legal background add a discussion of these cases? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 199.115.12.254 (talk) 14:38, 10 September 2010 (UTC)

Examples of Jury Nullification[edit]

  • I think the most striking examples of Jury Nullification in the U.S. are some of the trials of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. With the number of suggestions in the Discussion page, I think a list of cases and laws that were probably nullified by the jury would be of interest. Also, I think some of the tags identifying the article as biased or lacking adequate references, or as poorly written should be reconsidered. Lenehey (talk) 18:56, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

Header Tag[edit]

The header tag claims a neutrality dispute, can someone let me know what it is? Also it claims the article requires clean-up. Does anyone still feel this way?

I took out the re-write tag as it is redundant if there is a clean-up tag. Also I removed the ref-needed tag as there seems to be sufficient citations to me. If someone disagrees please add it back and we can work on it.

I would like to get the banner tags removed entirely, but we will need to address the issues raised first. Cheers, Colincbn (talk) 01:21, 22 April 2011 (UTC)

New section[edit]

This might clarify for those who would like to know the full definition of it:

You probably don't know what "Jury Nullification" is because the legal profession has gone to great lengths to keep you and anyone else who might serve on a jury ignorant of it. "Jury Nullification is a constitutional doctrine which allows jurors to stop the conviction of defendants who are technically guilty, but one or more jurors believe doesn't deserve punishment. It occurs in a trial when one or more jurors vote "Not Guilty" contrary to the judge's instructions as to the law. In cases where the entire jury exercises their power of "Jury nullification" the defendant gets a "Not Guilty" verdict and is acquitted of the crime. In cases where less than all of the jurors excercise the power, but those who voted "Not Guilty" refuse to change their vote the effect is still not a conviction. The latter case is a "Hung Jury", providing the judge's patience has been exhausted with trying to browbeat all jurors into a "Guilty" verdict. The judge must call a "Mistrial" unless those jurors who voted "Guilty" decide to change their vote to "Not Guilty." If the judge calls a "Mistrial" the prosecution must decide whether to dismiss the case against the defendant or retry him/her with a new jury. In either case, the defendant has not been convicted of the crime that he/she was being tried for and those jurors who voted "Not Guilty" have effected the doctrine of "Jury Nullification." As an added note, a judge who believes that the defendant in a criminal prosecution is not guilty has the power to simply dismiss the charge so voting "Guilty" is virtually never a use of "Jury Nullification." The power of "Jury Nullification" of jurors in criminal prosecutions is virtually our last defence against Tyranny barring actions that usually result in violence.(Wouldn't it be nice if the lawyers who have carried out a campain of obstucting this definitition of "Jury Nullification" because they don't want jurors who know what it is would allow it to be used here on Wikipedia) <signed by Wrmattison, 03/20/2012> — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wrmattison (talkcontribs)

Baloney. It's not a question of what the "legal profession" does. The law itself generally prohibits instructing or informing jury members about jury nullification. Indeed, that is covered in the article. And lawyers and judges are sworn to uphold the law.
By the way, so are jurors. In Texas criminal cases, for example, the members of the jury take an oath as follows:
"You and each of you do solemnly swear that in the case of the State of Texas against the defendant, you will a true verdict render according to the law and the evidence, so help you God".
--from Tex. Code of Crim. Proc. art. 35.22 (bolding added).
Additionally, under Texas, law, a prospective juror can be disqualified after a challenge for cause made by the prosecutor to the effect that the prospective juror "has a bias or prejudice against any phase of the law upon which the State is entitled to rely for conviction or punishment."
--from Tex. Code of Crim Proc. art. 35.16(b) (bolding added).
Further, under Texas law, a prospective juror can be disqualified after a challenge for cause made by the defendant to the effect that the prospective juror has a "bias or prejudice against any of the law applicable to the case upon which the defense is entitled to rely, either as a defense to some phase of the offense for which the defendant is being prosecuted or as a mitigation thereof or of the punishment therefor."
--from Tex. Code of Crim Proc. art. 35.16(c) (bolding added).
These rules are not something made up by the "legal profession" on its own; these rules are the law itself. Famspear (talk) 19:05, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

So, Famspear, you favor forcing the TYRANNY of forcing jurors to vote guilty in accordance with the law no matter how bad the law is or how unjust it is being applied? I still think that Jury Nullification is our last defence against the enforcement of bad law. Go to williethegeezer.com for a bad law situation that I am involved in. Jury Nullification is the constitutional right of juries and the courts are violating their oath of office by trying to abolish it. <Wrmattison 03/2/2012 11:00 AM>

I don't see anywhere that Famspear favors anything. Famspear is only quoting what the laws say in response to what you have been adding to the article and here. What you think about Jury Nullification is not pertinent to this article or to this page. This page's only purpose is to discuss how to improve the article not to discuss your experiences or opinions on the subject. GB fan 17:04, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

GB fan: This is the "TALK" section of the subject. I would think that "Opinions" would be invited here? "Jury Nullification" takes place when one or more jurors, but not all, in a criminal case vote "Not Guilty" and refuse to change their vote to guilty even against all the jurors, who voted "Guilty", arguments, against the prosecutors attempts to co-erce them into a guilty vote, and even against the browbeating a judge who wants the defendant convicted because the defendant is not convicted. When all of the jurors vote "Not Guilty" the defendant is acquitted. This appears to be the only way this Wikipedia subject recognizes "Jury Nullification." My atttempts have been to clarify the definition to include all of it. Wrmattison In one case in Pennsylvania eleven jurors voted guilty but one juror voted not guilty. The eleven argued her into voting guilty and she ended up crying for days. The other jurors convinced her that the defendant would certainly only get probation. She relented and the defendant was convicted. The woman ended up crying for days because the defendant got sentenced to 18 years when she didn't believe that he should be punished. Better she would have spent the days in the jury room refusing to vote guilty than crying for days because she had helped send a man, who she didn't believe should be punished, to prison for 18 years. Wrmattison

Dear Wrmattison: As a fellow editor pointed out, I have not said that I am "in favor" of something or "against" something in this case. I am explaining what the law is. And, generally, neither Wikipedia articles nor the talk pages for the articles are the proper places for registering complaints about what the law is, or how the legal process has affected a juror or a defendant in some case somewhere. The purpose of this talk page is to discuss ways to improve the article, not to discuss ways to improve the law that is the subject of the article. Of course, many of us digress from time to time on these talk pages. For example, I may digress to some extent even by explaining what the law is. I respect the fact that you have a strong opinion on the topic, though. The goal should be, ultimately, to improve the article. Famspear (talk) 19:40, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

Famspear: This "TALK" page is about what a poor article (definition of Jury Nullification) this is. I do live in Texas (Amarillo) and if I can get the help from enough others who believe in what the FIJA is attempting to do I will be able to bring this thing before the Supreme Court of Texas, maybe even the Supreme Court of the US, and get a difinitive version on whether or not the defense in a criminal trial has the right to inform the jury about it. (By the way, are you a lawyer?)Wrmattison — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wrmattison (talkcontribs) 20:05, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

This is not the place to get on a soapbox and advocate for change. Wikipedia articles are about the way things are today and in the past according to reliable sources. They are not about the way people would like them to be in the future unless reliable sources have commented on the future of things. GB fan 20:13, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
Dear Wrmattison: First of all, by "FIJA" I assume you mean an organization known as the "Fully Informed Jury Association." Second, you don't need to ask for a "difinitive version" (by which I assume you mean a court ruling) on whether the defense in a criminal trial has the right to inform the jury about "jury nullification" You already have plenty of definitive court rulings on the subject.
The answer is: Neither the prosecution nor the defense in a criminal case has a right to inform a jury about "jury nullification." That's the law. Read the Wikipedia article again.
And, under our legal system, the only way to get a question before the Texas Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court on something like this is by way of an actual judicial review -- which means that you would have to start with an actual decision in an actual criminal case in a trial court (say, a state district court in a county somewhere in Texas, for example) that would be appealed to the higher courts, on up the chain to the highest court.
One of the misconceptions that some non-lawyers have is that somehow you don't have a definitive statement of the law on a particular topic unless a state supreme court or the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on that particular topic. That is incorrect. Under our legal system, most rules of law (and most rulings by trial courts) are never appealed. Most rules of law are not decided by the U.S. Supreme Court or a state supreme court.
And, in the case of jury nullification, there are some court rulings -- and some of the most important rulings are already mentioned in the article.
By the way, why do you want to know whether I'm a lawyer? Famspear (talk) 21:16, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

Famspear: I took an oath way back in 1958 as follows: "I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foriegn and domestic, so help me God." There are a great number of enemies of our Constitution, many whom are or have been lawyers. The fight against juries being informed about their individual or collective Constitutional power of "Jury Nullification" has been carried out by lawyers whom are definitely enemies of our Constitution and hypocrites for violating their oath. The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to an "Impartial Jury", not a jury that is biased in favor of the law that the defendant is being tried for violating. Historically there have been many cases where "Jury Nullification" has led to the abolishment of bad laws. It is something that the courts should embrace instead of working so feverishly against. Just wondering if you are one of those whom I took an oath against? (NOTE! In Amarillo, it is a misdemeanor CRIME to feed a cat outside of your home. If you went to "williethegeeze.com" you would see that I have been charged with that. It may give me the opportunity to challenge the courts' attempts to banish "Jury Nullification.")Wrmattison (talk) 22:06, 21 March 2012 (UTC)Wrmattison

And again none of this is discussion on how to improve the article. Please only use this page to discuss how to improve the article not for expressing your opinion of what Jury nullification should be or to soapbox your particular case. Please provide reliable sources for any changes or additions to the article. GB fan 01:04, 22 March 2012 (UTC)

If a juror is suppose to render a judgement based on the law as well as the evidence, that has to include judging whether or not the law itself in just. Doesn't make any sense otherwise. --69.143.222.154 (talk) 06:22, 23 September 2012 (UTC) Anonymous

That's an interesting and very old concept -- judging whether the law itself is just. However, having each juror make an independent evaluation of whether the law is just or not tends to lead to problems. One could just as well argue that it does not make sense for the majority to elect a Congress or legislature that enacts laws, and then to have one unelected juror in a criminal case override that.
At any rate, the purpose of this talk page is to discuss ways to improve the article, not to discuss our own personal view of the legal philosophy behind the concept of jury nullification. Famspear (talk) 14:08, 23 September 2012 (UTC)

Clarification needed[edit]

"Jury nullification may also occur in civil suits, in which the distinction between acquittal and conviction is irrelevant.[10]" I can't tell what this sentence is trying to say, and the source is a hard copy law journal. If the statement is trying to say that a person's criminal conviction or acquittal has no effect on a subsequent civil suit arising from the same events as the criminal charges, that simply isn't true; if a person is convicted of (or pleads guilty to) criminal negligence, then the person will be considered to have acted negligent civilly in a subsequent civil trial as well. However, if the person was acquitted of criminal negligence, that does not have any effect on a subsequent civil trial. This is because of the differing standards in criminal trials (beyond a reasonable doubt) and civil trials (by a preponderance of the evidence). To put it another way, a person cannot be convicted of (or plead guilty to) a crime in a criminal trial, and then try to argue in a subsequent civil trial that he was actually not guilty. 68.32.50.137 (talk) 13:19, 10 August 2012 (UTC)RCC

The way I read the sentence is that the author is just saying that in a civil case, there is no such thing as a verdict of of "guilty" or "not guilty." (and thus, no "conviction" or "acquittal," so the "distinction" between the two is irrelevant in a civil case). I'll try to clarify the article. Famspear (talk) 14:25, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

General Cleanup Needed[edit]

Both the article itself and this talk page require some serious attention. Starting with the talk page, some people are clearly using this as a forum to voice their opinions on the subject itself, rather than to discuss ways to improve the article.

With regard to the article, it generally lacks references to support its conclusions. For example, the introduction claims that jury nullification is a "Constitutional Doctrine". This is unsupported, and there is no constitutional basis for jury nullification. Jury nullification is essentially a sociological phenomena that takes places in a courtroom. The article itself references a case from 1748 in which Lord Mansfield points out that jury nullification is nothing more than juries taking the law into their own hands. Although there may be compelling justifications supporting a jury refusing to abide by the law, this article needs to be completely revised to make clear that jury nullification is NOT a "right" of juries. Juries are not instructed on this power because jurors must take an OATH to uphold the law as the Court instructs them when they agree to be a juror. A juror is subject to criminal and/or civil contempt or perjury sanctions for failing to apply the law as it is written. The only reason jury nullification works is because the law requires that the Court abide by the decision of the jury. This article, as written, borders on providing incorrect legal advice in that a reader could come away thinking that they can ignore the law when sitting on a jury, which, although true, may result in criminal and/or legal sanctions against them personally. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jesse525 (talkcontribs) 18:52, 28 August 2012 (UTC)

Dear Jesse525: A juror is subject to criminal or civil contempt or perjury sanctions for failing to apply the law as it is written? In the United States? Who told you that? A juror may be subject to criminal or civil sanctions for certain kinds of behavior, but I know of no law in the United States that works the way you have described. (I haven't made a detailed study of all the laws of all fifty states.) If there is something in the article that says the law works the way you described, I missed it.
A court is required by law to abide by the decision of the jury? No. Not exactly. In the United States, in a criminal case the court is required to abide by a jury verdict of acquittal. The court is not required to abide by a jury verdict of guilty, and the court is not generally required to abide by a jury verdict in a civil case.
I agree with you that jury nullification is not properly characterized as a "right" of the jury.
In a sense, jury nullification might be thought of as having a constitutional basis in a criminal case in the United States, in that a verdict of acquittal cannot generally be overturned by the court (because of the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution).
And, in Texas, jurors certainly do take an oath to apply the law as the judge instructs them on the law (I forget the exact wording). So, I do agree with the main thrust of your comments. Famspear (talk) 04:02, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
Famspear: I am not personally aware of a case where a juror was found in contempt for failure to abide their oath, but in Florida each juror must take an oath that they will render a verdict based upon the law as instructed by the court. At least in theory it could arguably be considered perjury or direct criminal contempt to take an oath in court and then willingly fail to follow through with that affirmation. It may never happen, but I would be extremely cautious in advising anyone that they have a right to do something that could put them in the hot seat so to speak.
I agree that the Court certainly has powers to overturn a jury verdict in some cases. In Florida, the judge can generally overturn a jury verdict in a civil case when it is against the manifest weight of the evidence, or when a damage award is so large (or small) as to shock the conscience of the court. However, this power of the court generally furthers the goal of a stable and predictable legal system, whereas jury nullification encourages chaos and unpredictable jury results. That's probably a personal opinion, admittedly, but its a counterpoint to the non-neutral POV of the article itself. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jesse525 (talkcontribs) 19:39, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Dear Jesse525: I'm not sure that what you're describing can be classified as either perjury or contempt of court, but I haven't made a detailed study of the subject.

I do agree with the general thrust of your comments. If all jurors felt no hesitation to just ignore the law as given to them by the judge and to instead apply what they feel the law should be, things would indeed tend to be more chaotic. Jurors, like lawyers and bailiffs and court reporters and court clerks and judges and sheriffs and policemen take some sort of oath, generally, in so many words, to uphold the law not as they believe the law should be but to uphold a system of law, the specific rules of which are objectively determinable. Some legal rules are vague or uncertain, but the rules are still objectively determinable by reference to specific, pre-defined methods of legal analysis. In the case of an American jury, the job of the jury is to determine the facts, not the law, and to apply the facts to the law as given to them by the judge. (Of course, this basic rule is complicated by the situation where certain issues are "mixed questions of law and fact," but that's another discussion.) Attempts by certain parties (such as tax protesters) to circumvent this fundamental rule are well known to those who study the law. Some tax protesters, for example, will try to circumvent the judge and "argue the law to the jury." Under the law, a judge has a great deal of discretion to prohibit such tactics. Famspear (talk) 01:21, 25 September 2012 (UTC)

I agree that this article needs some careful review. I just removed the following material, which was blatantly false:

However, one of the dissenting judges [in the case of United States v. Krzyske, 836 F.2d 1013 (6th Cir. 1988)] pointed out that in United States v. Wilson, 629 F. 2d 439 - Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit 1980 that the panel had unanimously decided "In criminal cases, a jury is entitled to acquit the defendant because it has no sympathy for the government's position..."

That statement is blatantly false. That's not what the dissenting judge said in Krzyske, and that's not what was said in the Wilson case. The Court in Krzyske was actually talking about the Avery case, and here is the actual text:

We recently addressed the question of jury nullification in United States v. Avery, 717 F.2d 1020 (6th Cir.1983), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 905, 104 S.Ct. 1683, 80 L.Ed.2d 157 (1984), in the following terms:
Defendant's final contention is that the district court committed reversible error when it refused to instruct the jury that it had the power to acquit the defendant even though he was guilty of the charged offense. The instruction itself reads that "a jury is entitled to acquit the defendant because it has no sympathy for the government's position."
This argument is completely without merit. Although jurors may indeed have the power to ignore the law, their duty is to apply the law as interpreted by the court and they should be so instructed.
Id. at 1027 (citations omitted). A jury's "right" to reach any verdict it wishes does not, however, infringe on the duty of the court to instruct the jury only as to the correct law applicable to the particular case.

The Court in Avery was REJECTING a PROPOSED instruction from the DEFENDANT. The Defendant in Avery was asking the Court to instruct the jury that "a jury is entitled to acquit the defendant because it has no sympathy for the government's position." The Court in Avery REJECTED that. The material that I deleted was actually trying to make it appear as though the statement -- that "a jury is entitled to acquit the defendant because it has no sympathy for the government's position" -- was actually the law.

Not good. Famspear (talk) 17:52, 27 September 2012 (UTC)

Note: To make this even more clear, it was the district court that rejected the Defendant's proposed jury instruction. The Defendant appealed that, and the Court of Appeals upheld the district court's decision to reject the proposed language. The deleted statement -- that the panel (that is, the panel of the Court of Appeals) supposedly "had unanimously decided 'In criminal cases, a jury is entitled to acquit the defendant because it has no sympathy for the government's position...' -- was absolutely false. Famspear (talk) 17:58, 27 September 2012 (UTC)

It seemed the provided definition was wrong[edit]

As I arrived, the current opening paragraph reads:

"Jury nullification occurs when juries acquit criminal defendants who are technically guilty, but who do not deserve punishment. It occurs in a trial when a jury reaches a verdict contrary to the judge's instructions as to the law."

This paragraph most oddly makes statements like "technically guilty", as if juries are making decisions within the context of a known absolute truth rather than a judgment, and in a world where there is absolute certainty about the deserving of punishment. It also seems to imply that judges instruct jurors to find a person guilty and then they disobey, which absolutely does not happen in properly functioning legal systems. Let's compare this with a bunch of other definitions from around the web:

"Jury nullification is a de facto power of juries to acquit a guilty defendant based on a refusal to accept the law under which the defendant is charged with a crime." [1]
"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 they are charged with deciding." [2]
"Jury nullification generally refers to a jury’s decision to acquit a defendant even though the jurors believe the accused to be factually guilty of the crime. This decision can arise from a desire for leniency or sympathy with the accused or from distaste for the particular law being enforced." [3]

Basically, everyone else out there seems to agree that the key parameters of jury nullification are that the jury declares the defendant not guilty despite their OWN belief that the defendant has violated the law in question, and due to a disagreement with the law or a belief that the law should not apply to that defendent. I am modifying the opening to read:

Jury nullification occurs in a trial when a jury believes that a defendant has violated the law in question, but then the jury returns a not guilty verdict anyway. This occurs when members of a jury disagree with a particular law or otherwise believe that the law should not be applied to the defendant or situation."

Hopefully future versions can preserve the aspects which seem to be in wide agreement elsewhere. Sometrees (talk) 04:44, 20 January 2013 (UTC)

Yes, maybe some copy editing, but that captures my understanding of what it is. — kwami (talk) 06:46, 20 January 2013 (UTC)
Good stuff. Finally. :-| I always shake my head when I hear about people being sentenced for shirking jury duty using fraudulent excuses... all they have to do is send the forms back in, show up when instructed, say the words "jury nullification" during voir dire and they'll be out of the pool before the prosecutor even finishes the words "for cause." :-) Darr247 (talk) 03:08, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

Remove neutrality tag[edit]

The article is now tagged as not neutral. It looks rather balanced to me now. Any objections to removing the tag?Cosainsé (talk) 16:15, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

Given that the placement of the neutrality tag does not seem to have ever been accompanied by the required talk page explanation that should have giving a reasoned explanation for the need for the tag and the route needed for its removal, the neutrality tag should never have been there. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 93.97.143.19 (talk) 00:41, 17 July 2013 (UTC)

Reverse Jury Nullification[edit]

The third sentence of the article states "A jury can similarly convict a defendant on the ground of disagreement with an existing law, even if no law is broken"

Is this true, and can anyone provide a source? I was under the impression this can NOT happen. It subverts the entire idea of making laws in the first place if a jury is allowed to convict without a law. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 99.67.228.210 (talk) 15:14, 5 September 2013 (UTC)

Maybe it's just very unlikely? If a guilty verdict can't stand, what prosecutor would bring it up hoping the jury would agree with him?Vincent (talk) 01:40, 8 July 2014 (UTC)

In the United States, a jury can render a guilty verdict, but the decision as to whether the defendant is convicted as a result of the guilty verdict is up to the judge. If the judge decides that the evidence was not sufficient to support the jury verdict, the judge will render a judgment of acquittal. This happens from time to time. The prosecution in such a case is allowed to appeal, if desired.
By contrast, if the jury renders a not guilty verdict, the judge will render a judgment of acquittal. In this case, the result is not appealable by the prosecution. Famspear (talk) 02:02, 8 July 2014 (UTC)
By the way, the language in the article to the contrary notwithstanding, it's probably technically a bit more correct (in a narrow sense) to say that the jury can "find the defendant guilty" -- not that the jury can "convict" the defendant. This is a bit confusing, because even lawyers and judges themselves (and I am a lawyer) often use the terms interchangeably. But what the jury does, technically, is to render a verdict of guilty or not guilty. The conviction actually comes later -- often weeks or months later -- in the form of a judgment. The judgment is rendered by the judge, not by the jury.
However, since even lawyers use the term "convict" in the way used in the article, we can't complain too much.
Like other fields, law is full of examples where terms are used in multiple ways. For example, you will often hear lawyers or others say something like "Jones filed a lien against Williams." Technically, there is no such thing as "filing a lien." A lien is a legal relationship, not a legal document. What Jones is filing is a notice of lien.
Similarly, in a strict sense, there is no such thing as "signing a contract." In one sense, a contract is not a document. It's not a piece of paper. A contract is a legal relationship: a promise or a set of promises for the breach of which the law provides a remedy, or the performance of which the law recognizes as a duty.
Of course, lawyers (and just about everybody else) use terms like "file a lien" or "sign a contract" or "convicted by the jury" in the broader, more "every day" senses as well -- and there's nothing wrong with that, because everybody pretty much knows what everybody means.
Wait a minute. Did I digress? Famspear (talk) 02:14, 8 July 2014 (UTC)

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