Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2003

Keywords

Jury nullification, Acquittals, Mistrials, Felony jury trials, Hung juries, Empirical legal studies, Bushell's Case, Jury decision making

Disciplines

Applied Statistics | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure

Abstract

In recent years, the criminal justice community has become increasingly concerned about the possibility that jury nullification is the underlying motivation for increasing numbers of acquittals and mistrials due to jury deadlock in felony jury trials. In this Article, the authors discuss the inherent difficulty in defining jury nullification and identifying its occurrence in actual trials. They review the evolution in public and legal opinion about the legitimacy of jury nullification and contemporary judicial responses to perceived instances of jury nullification. Finally, the authors examine the possible presence of jury nullification through empirical analysis of data collected from 372 felony jury trials in four state courts. Jurors' opinions about the fairness of the law proved to be related to trial outcomes. However, case characteristics, particularly the strength and credibility of trial evidence, were the strongest predictors of verdicts. The authors conclude that jury nullification is an unlikely factor in the vast majority of jury trials. When juror attitudes about legal fairness do play a role, they most likely do so by affecting how jurors perceive and interpret trial evidence, rather than by leading jurors to intentionally disregard the governing law.

Publication Citation

Published in: Chicago-Kent Law Review, vol. 78, no. 3 (2003).