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Jury Nullification

Jury nullification means a juror, or jury, has voted not guilty after a jury trial despite the fact that the juror, or jury, believes the defendant is in fact guilty of the alleged offense, so as to invalidate the law as it applies to the defendant as as it applies to society.

 

For example, if a juror votes not guilty after a criminal trial where the defendant was prosecuted for the crime of assisted suicide (sometimes called mercy killing), even though the juror believed the defendant was in fact guilty of the crime, the juror has invalidated the law as it otherwise would have applied to the defendant.

Jury nullification occurs where the juror believes the law is unfair as applied to the  defendant or to society. Most common type of criminal cases where jury nullification occurs include: Prostitution, loitering with intent to commit for prostitution, possession of controlled substances (simple possession), assisted suicide, begging or soliciting alms, unlawful assembly, statutory rape (unlawful sexual intercourse), willful child endangerment (related to religious beliefs and the forgoing medical treatment) and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

 

Other Reasons for JN: Jury nullification can happen for any reason, not just because a juror believes a law is unfairor immoral for some reason. For example, a juror might vote not guilty against a defendant despite believing the defendant is in fact guilty of a criminal allegation simply because the juror was biased against a prosecution witness or the prosecutor. This is more likely to occur where a juror has a strong bias against a police officer witness against the defendant (juror voted not guilty because the juror wanted to punish the police officer (or prosecutor) and not because the juror discredits the testimony of the police officer.

  

Not a True Defense: Jury nullification is not a true defense in the sense that it is not a legal or state sanctioned defense. The reality is that jury nullification happens, but is should never be relied upon or promoted by a criminal defense attorney. In fact, most courts will discourage or forbid a criminal defense attorney from informing a juror of his or her ability to nullify (invalidate) a law simply because the juror does not agree with the law, finds the law to be immoral, or is bias towards the prosecution for some reason.

Juror Privacy Respected: A juror is not obligated to to disclose the reason(s) he or she voted not guilty for a defendant after a jury trial. Of course, a juror is sworn to obey the law and the law does not allow for jury nullification; however; most jurors do not disclose his or her secret reason for voting not guilty. When a juror does disclose that he or she cannot follow the law and will decide the defendant's fate based on some other guidance or principal, such as the juror's moral code, religious law, personal conscience, roll of the dice, etc. that juror will likely be dismissed from serving on the jury in the first place. If the juror is already serving on the jury and announces that he or she will not follow the law that juror will likely be dismissed from further service on that criminal trial.

Note: A finding of guilt in a criminal trial requires all twelve jurors to unanimously vote that the defendant is guilty; therefore, It only takes one juror in a criminal trial to invalidate the verdict by way of jury nullification. This does not mean that a juror has the power to invalidate a jury verdict through jury nullification because a juror is never granted that power. When a juror has nullified the verdict through juror nullification he or she has operated outside his or her power, which is the power to decide the fate of the defendant based on the law and the law only. With this in mind, jury nullification is not advised and should always be avoided to safeguard the equal application of the laws and to promote truth, which furthers justice across society. On the other hand, jury nullification happens just as crime happens.

Do Not Rely on JN: It is this author's opinion that if the defendant's only hope of winning a criminal case is for that defendant to rely on a juror, or jury, to nullify the criminal charges against him or her through jury nullification, then the case probably should have been settled, if possible, before the case proceeded to trial.

To learn more about jury nullification, or any of the generally much better defense options upon which to rely as they relate to a criminal charge, contact our criminal defense lawyers today for a free consultation. Our criminal defense lawyers are always available to assist you. Call today!

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