What is Jury Nullification?
Jury nullification is the logical consequence of two rules within the legal system:
1: Jurors cannot be punished for reaching a “wrong” decision.
2: Defendants who are acquitted cannot be tried again for the same alleged crime.
Essentially jury nullification is an event in which a jury decides to vote “not guilty” despite the judge’s instructions, the letter of the law or the defendants perceived guilt. This can occur for a variety of reasons including personal, moral or ethical problems with the law itself or simply a personal distrust of the processes making up the (so-called) justice system.
But A Cop/Judge/Lawyer Told Me That's Not Allowed...
These are people with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of the predatory-authoritarian-capitalist system in which we reside and as such unless you are paying the attorney yourself, don’t trust them. Police lie. Lawyers lie. Judges lie.
In Sparf v. US the US Supreme Court ruled that in fact juries have every right to nullify laws but oddly enough the reason you’ll never hear about it was also born of that very case. While SCOTUS found that it is perfectly legal for a juries/jurors to utilize nullification it is also not the responsibility nor is it required of the judges or prosecutors to inform the juries of this particular option at their disposal.
Seizing upon this opportunity judges and prosecutors have exploited the language in the ruling to generally forbid any mention of the act of nullification in the courtroom (or in some instances in areas anywhere near the courthouse).
But do not let this act of regressive force fool or intimidate you. Jury nullification has a (relatively) long and storied history including modern day cannabis growers being set free due to juries unwilling to convict to William Penn being acquitted by English jurors for practicing his religion (Quaker) and even Northern Abolitionists facing trial for “violations” of the Fugitive Slave Act (aiding and abetting runaway peoples who others considered chattel).
How? What Do I Do?
First: TAKE JURY DUTY!
So many people act as if jury duty is such a grind. More than tweeting, more than writing your congress-person, jury duty allows you as an individual system to undermine and launch your own micro-revolution within the confines of a decidedly micro-fascist arena. One person can completely derail the entirety of the weight of “the system” brought to bear upon a fellow human.
Second: SHUT UP ABOUT IT!
The prosecutor and judge will never let you be impaneled (added to the jury) if you give even the slightest hint that you are anti-authoritarian, anti-fascist, anti-police or any of the other host of beliefs and philosophies that threaten their little fiefdom. So when it comes to the interviews – shut up about it. Just give bare essential answers, don’t elaborate and certainly don’t tell them exactly what you think about their bullshit tyranny.
Third: SHUT UP ABOUT IT! – PART 2
Once you’ve been selected (impaneled) keep your mouth shut even more! DO NOT enter the deliberation room and start blasting off about how all this is rubbish and you’re voting not guilty no matter what. You owe no one a reason, you owe no one an explanation. If it gets back to the judge or prosecuting attorney(s) that you know your rights and intend to exercise them, they can and (in too numerous of occasions to mention here) have removed jurors from the jury because of their willingness to exercise these rights.
Fourth: The Art of Persuasion
This is where you have to make a decision. Are you going to attempt to go for full nullification of just hang the jury? This is a deeply personal and situational event. It requires you to pay attention to your fellow jurors and read the room effectively. If a couple jurors are leaning towards not guilty to begin with, side with them, formulate arguments that augment theirs and concentrate your energies on jurors that seem to be on the fence anyway. Human beings are pack animals and easily subjected to influence by group pressures. If you feel you can swing a not guilty verdict, GO FOR IT!
Now if you’re fighting an uphill battle and it seems that in no way can you achieve a full acquittal then your next best option is to hang the jury. Granted it means that the defendant may end up being prosecuted once more with a new jury but it also means more resources consumed by the state and generally isn’t great for the prosecution’s case. All that is required to hang a jury is that you vote not guilty. Period. Just keep saying that you feel you still have reasonable doubts about the circumstances and handling of the case and… NOT GUILTY.