This started with reading anah's post (she was on a drug trial where the punishment did not fit the crime) and one of the comments brought up "Jury nullification". I thought to myself, "Myself, you should find out more" and so I did. I found an informative site where they hope to, " inform all Americans about their rights, powers, and responsibilities when serving as trial jurors. Jurors must know that they have the option and the responsibility to render a verdict based on their conscience and on their sense of justice as well as on the merits of the law." Meaning - if a law is wrong, a jury can find the person not guilty even if there is overwhelming evidence against said person.
So, now I am going to give you a gigantic quote from this article.
"An Abbreviated History of Jury Nullification
Jury independence is well established in American law. In 1804, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase was impeached for denying a jury's right to judge law. He holds the dubious distinction of being the only Supreme Court ever impeached. Why did the Founders give juries such awesome power? Theophilus Parsons, first Chief Justice of Massachusetts, explained:
The people themselves have it in their power to resist usurpation, without an appeal to arms. An act of usurpation is not obligatory; it is not law; and any man may be justified in his resistance. Let him be considered a criminal by the general government, yet only his fellow citizens can convict him; they are his jury, and if they pronounce him innocent, not all the powers of Congress can hurt him; and innocent they certainly will pronounce him, if the supposed law he resisted was an act of usurpation.
Or, as Patrick Henry put it: Why do we love this trial by jury? Because it prevents the hand of oppression from cutting you off. This gives me comfort that as long as I have existence, my neighbors will protect me.
American history is full of proud examples of jury nullification. The common-law tradition of freedom of religion and of assembly has its origins in the 1670 trial of William Penn, accused of preaching an illegal religion in Gracechurch Street , London . The jury refused to convict Penn in spite of clear evidence of guilt, because they were unwilling to brand a man a felon for worshiping God according to his own beliefs. When the court attempted to punish Penn's jury for their act of nullification, a higher court reversed on the principle that it is only the jury, not the judge, which has the authority to decide whether a defendant is guilty. The American tradition of freedom of the press began in 1735, when a
But jury nullification of the law is not just a remnant of Colonial days, when Americans were still proud, independent and free. During the nineteenth century, juries as far South as
If you know anyone who gets one of those magic jury notification letters, please encourage them to learn about their rights. No matter what else is going on and what I may question - I am a fan of this little upstart of a country we have here.