Jury nullification occurs when a jury returns a verdict of "Not Guilty" despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged. The jury in effect nullifies a law that it believes is either immoral or wrongly applied to the defendant whose fate they are charged with deciding. source

Currently even knowing about jury nullification forbids you from serving in the jury, I'm not sure about this anymore according to below link. What will be the effects on the courts if everybody learns about it (imagine huge social media campaign)?

Would the trials become a toss-ups when having a juror who thinks that prohibition of drugs is stupid, and acquits drug dealers no matter the evidence.

What would the courts do?


Seems that the video I learned about Jury Nullification being illegal is full of misinformation according to Misinformation in “Jury Nullification: The Law You Won’t Be Told”


closed as off-topic by kingledion, cobaltduck, Hohmannfan, John Dallman, Thucydides Oct 28 '16 at 15:52

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    $\begingroup$ With regard to retrials, you should perhaps look up double jeopardy. $\endgroup$ – Azuaron Oct 28 '16 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ Also, are you thinking in terms of a particular legal system? The idea that "knowing about jury nullification forbids you from serving in the jury" seems to assume that jurors are questioned before being sworn in. That seems to be common in the US but rare elsewhere. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Oct 28 '16 at 11:45
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    $\begingroup$ Jury nullification was made forbidden as a way to undermine the right of the people as ultimate authority. Any judge that actually abides by it should disbarred and charged with treason, but them getting away with it just shows that the system is corrupt. So if it became common you would know the system was less corupt than it is now and the populace regarded many laws as not right, other than that... not much. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Oct 28 '16 at 11:57
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion It's not forbidden but judges will kick you off a jury if you mention it and they are supposed to inform you of that option but do not, because the citizenry refused to find certain groups guilty. there have been both good and bad usages of it. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Oct 28 '16 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Durakken Do you have any evidence not anecdotally obtained from Law and Order? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Oct 28 '16 at 17:43

Democracy, but with a good dose of randomness

Crime laws don't appear out of thin air - in most cases, they roughly correspond with what actions the society wants to prohibit and/or punish. So in essence if juries systematically judge certain actions as not punishable, then it implies that the law doesn't match the will of the people, and in many cases that would mean that the law should adapt to them, not the other way around.

However, there are major differences between a proper rule of law (assuming the laws were adjusted) and this process:

  • If everyone has clear guidelines on where the border lies between allowed and prohibited actions, e.g. listed in law, then it's much simpler for everyone - you don't have to be afraid doing things that are allowed, and you know from what actions the law will protect you. If jury nullification is a major mechanism, then it always comes up to a gamble of which juries will be chosen today, and you don't know if "the law" is A or B until it's judged.

  • The law becomes different depending on location. Suddenly, the legality of actions will depend on the particular place from where the juries will be selected. There are regional differences in political opinion, but currently they get aggregated so that the law is the same everywhere (within state boundaries in USA). Relying on jury nullification will mean that certain actions will not be prosecuted in some places (because the juries will just throw the cases out) while being prohibited in others; and to know if something is actually legal in practice, you'd have to look not at the laws but at the local political opinion.

  • Minority protections go out of the window. Jury nullification allows an effective tyranny of the majority - most democracies have certain rights that will be protected no matter what the majority will vote for; however, a system of jury nullification can effectively stop them. For example, you could easily kill, rape and rob a certain class of people if you'd be reasonably sure that a jury of your peers will acquit you anyway. This is not a hypothetical issue, there are historical lynch mob murders that have gone unpunished that way.

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    $\begingroup$ A simple edit to the laws to make Jury Nullification more canonized thant it should already be is to make it so a jury member can vote nullification and have to give an explanation as why they are doing so, or have a federal review of occurances where it is obvious a nullification. This would curtail much the "It's ok to kill a x person because they're x" problems which is part of the reason it became forbidden. It wouldn't get rid of all of it, but that's is just the price of a just system. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Oct 28 '16 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ I would argue that our current systems are just as "random." While it's true the laws are written down, there are way too many of them for you to actually know (yet you're assumed to be an expert in all of them, except the 5th amendment), and it's up to the DA to decide if you'll be prosecuted for some of them, and up to the lawyers to determine if you're guilty of some of them. Each of those has a large degree of "not-in-my-hands." $\endgroup$ – iAdjunct Oct 28 '16 at 14:11

Well, it depends.

Your story could have jury nullification where a dozen sane citizens decide that a terminal cancer patient should be free to smoke weed, whatever the law says. If the same guy gets off two or three times in a row while purely recreational drug users are punished, the lawmakers and the local cops will get the message that this is a special case and that the law should change.

Your story could have jury nullification where a dozen racists decide that a mob should be free to lynch somebody, whatever the law says. If that happens two or three times while minority members get sentenced for rape based on unsubstantiated charges, well, then the minorities will learn that they should not rock the boat, or demand equal justice under the law.

The Theory

Some legal systems separate the roles of judge and jury. There are many reasons for this, some good and some bad. Sometimes I think that a jury system happens when the citizens don't quite trust the king's judges, but they didn't dare to decapitate the king and insist on honest judges. (Of course one could also see it as an additional level of checks and balances. Only if the cops, the prosecutors, the judges, and the jury all agree there can be a guilty verdict. Any one of them could stop the process with their veto.)

The jury consists of common citizens, not legal experts, and they are called to rule on questions of fact and guilt. You could argue that jury nullification is a case of "not guilty be reason of a bad law or unanticipated special case."

The judges are legal experts, and they are called to rule on questions of law and appropriate punishment. You could argue that jury nullification means that the jury encroaches on the role of the judge and thus harms the checks and balances.

  • Not all country uses Jury for most of their justice procedure. In some country, the jury vote along law professionals and does not need unanimity.
  • For those countries that rely heavily on unanimous jury decision, there might be a hard period, with association conspiring to prevent justice from happening. But in reality, what prevent, today, someone from deciding that dealers should sell their stuff to kids at the door of their high-schools ? Yet I don't think it happens often.

So, from what you says, the "loophole" is right there in the open, as you can't know for sure how someone will decide, and judges, lawyers and jury specialist will keep on working the way they do right now, maybe moving from a "unanimous jury" to some kind of assisted jury system with law professional getting a vote and a qualified majority being enough.


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