Jury trials, Jury nullification, Jury reforms, Political role of the jury
Under what circumstances, if any, is it right for juries to ignore the dictates of law in arriving at their verdicts? The political role of the jury has come into the spotlight recently. Legal scholars have labeled as "jury nullification" the refusal of juries to apply the law when they believe that to follow the letter of the law would result in injustice. Jury nullification is actually a form of jury equity, the practice of deciding cases in line with community notions of justice and fairness.
On May 17, 1985, a jury acquitted eight anti-apartheid demonstrators charged with trespassing at the South African Consulate in Chicago. In Toronto, Dr. Henry Morgenthaler was also acquitted by a jury of his peers last November on charges that he violated Canadian laws regulating abortions. Jury nullification may constitute a strong repudiation of the law, as in the Morgenthaler case, or may be present in a weaker version, when juries take a merciful view of the facts or interpret the law generously, as in the anti-apartheid case.
Hans, Valerie P., "The Jury's Political Role: "To See With Their Own Eyes"" (1985). Cornell Law Faculty Publications. 332.
Published in: Delaware Lawyer, vol. 4, no. 2 (Fall 1985).