Posts Tagged ‘jury nullification’
This week, in addition to my other obligations, I’ve been summoned for jury duty. I don’t like being called for jury duty, but I feel a responsibility to serve. So far, I haven’t been required to report, providing me a huge sigh of relief, by keeping both my schedule and my conscience unencumbered.
Theoretically, jury are intended to insure justice, by determining wrongdoing. By hearing different sides of an argument, they are expected to figure out which is right. It sounds simple, but jurors who fail to determine who is right and who is wrong, become a party to injustice.
In a courtroom, lawyers hope jurors will draw the right conclusions, even if they are intentionally suggesting conclusions which are wrong. Jurors are hoping they can see through deceptions to make the right decision, but the evidence of isn’t always clear. What is right or wrong can become blurred.
The recent murder trial of Casey Anthony is a perfect example. For three weeks 13 individuals sat listening to evidence of guilt or innocence. When their verdict was announced, the public was outraged. The public believed the jury got it wrong, that justice was not served. The media fires were fueled by outcries this was a case of jury nullification.
But jury nullification implies that jurors have some sympathetic reason or motivation to ignore their legal obligation or instruction. That wasn’t true of the Casey Anthony trial, in fact most of the jurors believed Casey Anthony was guilty, but they weren’t sure of exactly what it was she was guilty of. Their instincts and common sense told them she was guilty, but they didn’t feel it had been proven to them. They didn’t want to be wrong.
Though they knew laws had been broken, and wrong committed, the jurors had an obligation to uphold their oath to try to do right by upholding the laws that govern the courts. It was a very bad example of how The United States justice system is supposed to work, or a very good one of why it does. We should be grateful for a system that offers protections when the evidence fails to prove guilt.
The American philosophy of jurisprudence is based on innocent-til-proven-guilty. That principle is the best virtue and the worst flaw of American justice. By putting the burden of proof on the court, it is intended to protect the innocent from being wronged. Unfortunately sometimes it has the de facto effect of protecting the guilty from being prosecuted.
My worst fear is having to serve on a jury charged with such a grave matter. In matters of right and wrong, a juror hopes to get it right. There there have been plenty of times I was wrong, while convinced I was right. I don’t have a problem being wrong, but sometimes it’s impossible to know. A courtroom is one place I wouldn’t want to be wrong.