By Steve Gillman
The right to, and availability of jury nullification is almost
unknown among jurors. This is a shame, as many good people go
to jail due to unjust laws and unjust application of laws which
could have been nullified by an informed jury.
Note: This piece on jury nullification is
from the ebook "99 Lies."
Lie # 34
A Juror Has to Judge Only the Facts
The Reason for the Lie
Judges, lawyers and others in the justice system tell jurors
they may only judge the facts in the case, and not let their
opinion of the law, their conscience, or the motives of the defendant
affect their decision. This lie is told because authorities don't
want to lose control of the process of "justice" to
"Jury nullification of law," as it is sometimes
called, has been a recognized right since the founding of the
United States. A quote about jurors from John Adams, our second
president: "It is not only his right but his duty...to find
the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment,
and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction
of the court." In the early days of the country it was common
practice for a judge to inform a jury about their right to judge
the defendant AND the law.
Law made in England was regularly nullified by colonial juries,
and the founding fathers of the U.S. defended this right in the
new country. It has been repeatedly upheld by the highest courts
when challenged. When law required citizens to pay taxes to churches
they didn't belong to, a jury could say no. Juries today can
still say no to bad law, or to a bad application of the law.
They are not limited to judging the facts in a case.
However, a series of court rulings decided that juries don't
need to be told about this. The court can even lie to the jury,
as in this typical instruction from a Judge in California's criminal
cases: "It becomes my duty as judge to instruct you concerning
the law applicable to this case, and it is your duty as jurors
to follow the law as I shall state it to you ... You are to be
governed solely by the evidence introduced in this trial and
the law as stated to you by me."
Amazingly, officers of the court in most jurisdictions are
not allowed to tell the jury of their veto power. Even worse,
those who try to inform and educate juries are sometimes threatened
with jury-tampering charges. Nonetheless, it is still a recognized
legal right. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1972
that a jury has an "...unreviewable and irreversible power...to
acquit in disregard of the instruction on the law given by the
trial judge. The pages of history shine upon instances of the
jury's exercise of its prerogative to disregard instructions
of the judge; for example, acquittals under the fugitive slave
Why it Matters
Sometimes great injustice is done in the name of the law.
Until humans are perfect, there will always be bad law and there
will always be cases where the law is misapplied. In those cases,
you have the right as a juror to say no to the law or its use.
As a practical matter, even when other jurors vote to convict,
your "innocent" vote results in a hung jury. In these
cases, especially when there is no clear victim, the state often
drops a case rather than go through the trouble and expense to
retry it. You have the right and the realistic power then, to
set free good people who are being persecuted under bad laws.
When necessary, use your jury-nullification power to deliver
From the ebook "99 Lies," which comes with, "You
Aren't Supposed To Know - A Book Of Secrets." To see what
else comes with the package, visit