Jury Nullification

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Jury Nullification occurs when a jury returns a verdict against the proof of guilt because the jurors believe the law to be unjust or unjustly applied. As a result, the defendant is declared innocent, or is given a lesser penalty, even though without an act of jury nullification they would have been found guilty. This is a source of much debate in today’s society. Some maintain that it is an important safeguard or last resort against wrongful punishment and imprisonment; while others often view it as a violation of the right of a jury and undermining that law. Jury nullification occurs rather infrequently, in just three to four percent of cases, which shows that in most cases the law is justly applied. The Symposium article by Clay S. Conrad and Nancy King supported the argument that juries can and should correct the overly broad use of criminal sanctions. While a court may try to pretend that injustices under the law cannot occur, they often do. It is not justice if a jury does not believe in the decision they have rendered just because they followed the letter of the law. They should be satisfied with the verdict they have proclaimed and know that any punishments are warranted since another human beings life and well-being if often at stake. One example is the case of Sam Skinner, an AIDs patient who was prosecuted for the illegal use of marijuana. The marijuana helped counteract the overwhelming side effects of the drug AZT which Skinner used to help with his illness. The marijuana eased his pain and helped keep him from wasting away. Although Skinner admitted to the use of marijuana, the jury found him not guilty because they believed that that prosecution was fundamentally unjust. The system of being judged by a jury was put into place by the founding fathers of this nation to prevent governmental overreaching. Alexander Hamilton stated “it was the surest protection of the people’s liberties”. It is a form of safety net because it allows the...
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