Jury nullification is a constitutional doctrine that allows juries to acquit defendants who are technically criminals guilty, but who do not deserve punishment. It occurs in a trial when a jury reaches a verdict contrary to the judge’s instructions as to the law. A jury verdict contrary to the letter of the law does not belong only to the particular case before it. If a pattern of acquittals, however, develops in response to repeated attempts to prosecute a statutory offense, it can have the de facto effect of invalidating the statute. A pattern of jury nullification may indicate public opposition to an unwanted legislative enactment. In the past, it was feared that may unduly influence a judge alone or a panel of public officials to follow established legal practice, even if such practice had drifted from its origins. In most modern Western legal systems, however, often instruct juries only serve as “finders of facts”, whose role is to determine the veracity of the evidence, and the weight accorded to evidence, to implement these tests the law and reach a verdict, but not decide what the law is .
Jury Nullification “It is not only the juror’s 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.” This is what John Adams said of jury nullification. John Jay, who was the first justice of the Supreme Court said, “The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.” So what is jury nullification and how does it influence courtroom proceedings and judicial practices? The definition of jury nullification according to thefreedictionary.com website jury nullification is defined as a sanctioned doctrine wherein members of a jury disregard either the evidence presented or the instructions of the judge in order to reach a verdict based upon their own consciences.
It espouses the concept that jurors should be the judges of both law and fact. The doctrine of jury nullification is based one important things, one that a juror can never be punished for the verdict they bring back to the judge, and second that a defendant cannot ever be retried once the jury has returned to the courtroom with a not guilty verdict. The first case of jury nullification in British law dates back to 1670 in trial of William Mead and William Penn, (William Penn would later go on to be the founder of the Province of Pennsylvania) these two men were charged in England for unlawful assembly, which was a law that was aimed at preventing different religious groups that were not noticed by the crown from worshipping. Both of these men were clearly guilty of breaking the law according to British law and the judge presiding over the case demanded that the jury find William Mean and William Penn guilty, but the jury refused to find these two men guilty because they felt that the law itself Jury Nullification was unjust. The judge continued to insist that the jury find these two men guilty, and the jury repeatedly refused, the judge became so infuriated with the jurors that he threw the jurors in prison.
The highest court in England ordered that the jurors be released and established into common law the integrity of jurors in criminal cases. In America the Founding Fathers recognized the relevance of letting jurors determine not only the guilt or innocence of the person on trial, but the fairness of the law in which the person is charged with breaking. In more recent cases, in California a jury convicted Ed Rosenthal in two-thousand three of growing marijuana which was a violation of federal law. During the case the jury did not know and was never allowed to hear that not only was Ed Rosenthal growing medical marijuana for medical patients, but he was growing and harvesting the marijuana for the city of Oakland, California. When the trial ended and the jury found out the true facts of the case they were outraged and the foreman of the jury was quoted in the New York Times as saying “it is the most horrible mistake I have ever made in my entire life.” Should Ed Rosenthal been convicted of growing marijuana? I feel that he should not have been convicted and the jury had a right to know the truth about who Ed Rosenthal was growing the marijuana for and for who it was being provided to.
Another case would be that of Richard Pen of Florida, who is serving a twenty-five year prison sentence in Florida for distribution of a controlled substance. Richard Pen was a forty-six year old paraplegic man who became a paraplegic after being involved in a very serious car accident that badly damaged his back, and after having back surgery that did not go as planned, Richard Pen was left in indescribable amounts of pain. Richard Pen realized that Jury Nullification. He could relieve his pain by taking large amounts of opiate painkillers, but the amount of medication his doctor had prescribed him was not enough, and they could not prescribe him anymore because it would exceed the amount of what his doctor could legally prescribe.
Richard Paey felt that he had no choice but to obtain the medication illegally and he began photocopying the prescription and used them to get his medication from local pharmacies. Richard Paey was arrested and was charged with distribution of a controlled substance, but he never sold the medication, and never gave the medication away, he only used the medication for himself so that he could live somewhat of a normal existence and be free from the excruciating pain that he was in. But once again because of the way the laws are written the jury had no choice but to return to the court with a guilty verdict.
In these two cases, I do feel that they did break the law, but should they have been found guilty of the charges against them? I do not feel that they should, and if the jurors were allowed to hear the truth about these cases these two men, Ed Rosenthal, and Richard Paey would not be serving time in prison, and since the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors on the federal level can continue to arrest and charge people who use medical marijuana, you should expect to see more and more cases like this crowding up our courtrooms. You will probably see more and more cases such as Richard Paey, and other patients like him who are just trying to manage their pain and try to live somewhat of a normal life crowding up our courtrooms as well.
So what can us as citizens do to undo the injustice of the Richard Paey’s and the Ed Rosenthal’s? Well unless you are serving on a jury panel, nothing, but if you happen to get a jury Jury Nullification Summons in the mail, do not ignore it as I have done many, many times before although I did have valid reasons for not being able to serve as a juror, I had a disabled parent and I was his sole caregiver, instead send back the summons stating that you are available to serve as a juror, and who knows you might be able to undo some of the injustices of the judicial system, and keep an innocent person from serving a lengthy prison sentence.
http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/jury+nullification http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,163877,00.html http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig10/emal1.1.1.html