Jury Nullification Paper
University of Phoenix
Theresa Weekly December 5, 2010
Jury nullification is the act of a jury in exonerating a defendant, even though they are truly guilty of violating the law. When this happens, the defendant is found innocent, even though without an act of jury nullification they would have been found guilty. Normally, jury nullification is carried out by a jury that disagrees with a law; this is a way of indicating their disagreement with the law, and their choice not to penalize the person who broke that law. Jury nullification is a significant tool that citizens use to make their outlook on the law clear, and over time the consequence of this action can have a profound effect on the ways that laws are formed and instituted.
Jury Nullification Arguments for Race-Based Jury Nullification
A jury is most likely to acquit a defendant when members of the jury are sympathetic toward the defendant or disfavor the law under which the charges fall. Cases continue to exist, however, in which a juror's desire not to convict is for racial reasons. Some argue that after a long history of all White juries acquitting defendants who committed crimes against African Americans –and in a system in which African Americans have a higher likelihood of arrest and conviction –jury nullification can be a political tool in the face of a discriminatory process. As lawyer and former Democratic National Committee Chairperson Paul Butler claimed, "The race of a black defendant is sometimes a legally and morally appropriate factor for jury nullification" (Yale Law Journal, 1995, p. 6). After all, juries bravely used this right to block the prosecutions of individuals who resisted the Fugitive Slave Act (King, 2006). Butler further expressed that the African American community would benefit from certain nonviolent offenders remaining in the community rather than serving prison sentences (Butler, 1995). Arguments against Race-Based Jury Nullification
The main argument against race-based jury nullification is that it leads to undeserved acquittals, hung juries, and a refusal to consider the evidence that undermines the criminal justice process. As long as jury nullification is allowed, the courts cannot neatly confine it to the rejection of bad laws or the acquittal of good defendants, for which it is ideal. Unfortunately, jury nullification has enabled a pattern of lawlessness in which juries acquit defendants who are clearly guilty of violence against an unpopular victim, such as an African American. Shortly after the Civil War, the federal government passed The Klan Act to combat race-based jury nullification (King, 2006). The Klan Act barred Ku Klux Klan members or sympathizers from serving on juries but did not seem to have much of an impact on the pattern of White juries acquitting White defendants for committing crimes against African Americans at the time.
Examples of raced based Jury nullifications Jury nullification is something that has been in existence for quite some time now. The form of race-based jury nullification is when the race of the defendant is the sole factor in whether or not he or she is found guilty. There are certain members of the legal world that have made it very clear that they support Race-based jury nullification. One law professor at George Washington University; Paul Butler, is a strong supporter of this practice. He states that "black juries should acquit black defendants for nonviolent offenses even when the evidence of guilt is clear" (Cato, 1999). Throughout history there are some examples of cases where the aforementioned has happened. The most famous case of proposed jury nullification was in the O....