Jury nullification is the constitutional power that jurors have to address such issues as fairness, selectiveness and compassion, which would otherwise not be part of their deliberation. Each and every day, there are cases held in courtrooms across America where all evidence points to a guilty verdict, yet jurors decide to sign a “not guilty” verdict. Jurors who make a conscious decision to ignore the Judge’s instructions to “follow the law”, do so because they believe that there are circumstances in which it is acceptable to break the law. Therefore, to answer the question “Is it ever acceptable to break the law?” requires an explanation of the concept of jury nullification and both its pros and cons.
When contemplating the essence of the jury system, Thomas Jefferson considered “… trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” The jury system is the foundation of our legal system and reflects what the United States constitution stands for. Juries in criminal cases are instructed not to question the rectitude in the case, but only whether the defendant has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have committed the charged offense. Section 1.02 of United States District Court Pattern Criminal Jury Instructions for the Sixth Circuit states “Your second duty is to take the law that I give you, apply it to the facts, and decide if the Government has proved the defendant guilty beyond a rea...
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....74). Dr. King hopes to express that laws may sound as they are what is right, but when enforced lead to injustice. Breaking an unjust law can very well lead to the application of jury nullification. In spite of the fact they very well violated the letter of the law, if the jury uses their own judgment in deciding the verdict, the defendant would get the benefit of the moral jurors.
Laws are in place to guarantee rights to each person. Only if there is a better result of breaking the law, as opposed to what following the law would lead to, is it acceptable to break the law. Juries use the power of jury nullification to disregard the evidence or instructions given by the judge, they do so when the defendant accused of the crime seems to be guilty. Doing right by the law should not feel wrong, and what is said to be wrong is not always clear if circumstances permit.
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