Monday, February 24, 2003

Jury Nullification

I am a great believer in the jury's secret power: jury nullification. That is the power of any jury to rule that a law is unjust, or that the application of the law in that particular case is unjust. Very few Americans realise that they have this power, and prosecutors, lawyers and judges would like to keep it that way.

Philadelphia, if I recall correctly, had a terrible problem getting drug convictions back in the late Eighties. Folks there simply assumed that any arrest of a black man for drugs was racially motivated, or that the police had planted evidence or trumped up charges. They refused to find any black man guilty. Turns out they were right; the police and prosecutors were incredibly corrupt. Of course, you didn't hear about the juries much at the time. Can't afford to have the average folks getting ideas, can we?

Jury nullification is part and parcel of the American legal system, as this story tells us. Clay Conrad's article is about how to pass voir dire in being selected for jury duty in drug cases. He walks just over the line of advocacy, sounding as though he encourages dishonesty, but he writes a good, brief history. He also doesn't talk about how to convince skeptical fellow jurors that they actually can do what you suggest, that they have that kind of power and authority.

Still, it's a good starting place for those of you not familiar with jury nullification. It's something all Americans need to know, as our government grows more and more rapacious.

You can learn more at the Fully Informed Jury Association's website. Take the time and regain the power.

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