The Daily Beast posted a very interesting article on jury nullification earlier this week. Jury nullification occurs when a jury disregards the law and delivers a verdict they feel represents real justice. In our legal system, juries serve only as “finders of fact,” whose role it is to determine the truthfulness of the evidence but not the application of the law to that evidence. It doesn’t always work out that way.
Sometimes juries refuse to convict because they perceive the law to be unjust (such as federal drug trials in states where medical marijuana is legal) or because they perceive the police or court systems are inherently unjust (some say this is what happened in OJ’s criminal trial).
Without jury nullification, Harriet Tubman and other brave heroes of the Underground Railroad who helped runaway slaves escape to the North in the mid-19th century, would have been guilty of federal crimes for violating the fugitive slave laws. That is a morally revolting prospect.
Would you convict the soldier who leaked classified documents to Wikileaks if you were morally opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and believed the soldier was acting to prevent further loss of American lives? Various writers have described jury nullification as the last line of defense, the last check and balance, against a tyrannical government and an act of civil disobedience. Do you agree?
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