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Jury nullification

Discussion in 'Legal & Political Archive' started by telemakos, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. telemakos

    telemakos Portland Member

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    Hello all, I just wanted to start a little conversation about nullifying laws by using not guilty jury votes.

    In Oregon we have that right but you would almost never know it by the way judges run their courtrooms or prohibit defense attornies from briefing juries about it.

    Let's say Ginny Burdick managed to get one of her bills through and into law.

    Ultimately one of us gets indicted, but no matter because despite a clear violation, the jury doesn't convict because the law is unjust, repugnant, constitutional, or ...

    What say you?
     
  2. Mrand55

    Mrand55 Salem Member

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    I think it would be a good way to stand up to an unjust law but I'm guessing they would find a way to boot you off the jury. The job of a jury is to convict or not convict based upon the violation of a law, not inject whether the law is just or unjust. I certainly hope we don't get to that point.
     
  3. Kevinkris

    Kevinkris Aloha Well-Known Member

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    actually there are times it has happened. they made an episode of CSI i think it was or one of the shows like it, about a man who killed a Dr from a middle eastern country who came to remove his daughters clitoris. that was made from a story that really happened. he spent about 2 months in jail including the time he was in trial. the jury found him guilty but forced sentence to time served and released him.

    based on the fathers right to protect his daughter from harm. the mothers side of the family was forcing it on him and his wife was supporting them. his choices were(in his view) run from his wife and her family with his daughter or kill the Dr., running did not assure him that it would never happen. the tv show depicts the wife as a victim.

    im sure that you can find a case in more recent history, that was something like 30 years ago, before i was even born.
     
  4. greedy bastards

    greedy bastards Multnomah Village New Member

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    You are misinformed. The whole reason for nullification is exactly why the OP is bringing this to your attention.
     
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  5. pokerace

    pokerace Newberg Well-Known Member

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    Do a google on Jury nullification.
     
  6. Bigfoot

    Bigfoot Clack Co. OR Well-Known Member

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    When the evidence is clear but the jury doesn't care.

    Can't generalize. Sometimes I'm fer it and sometimes I'm agin it.

    Like the old timey colloquialism? :p

    This was how Klansmen used to walk after killing innocent people of any race or religion that they didn't happen to like.

    It's also how OJs jury wouldn't have convicted him even if Nicole had a video camera that caught the whole event.

    OTOH there are times when unjust laws, tricky lawyers, crooked prosecutors, biased judges etc. when the common people in the jury can smell a rat and don't buy it.

    It's a dangerous extralegal occurrence. Sometimes innocent guys get railroaded, sometimes because of an honest mistake (mistaken identity etc.), and sometimes killers/rapists walk but the jury system works best generally because it's the citizens who decide, and sometimes they decide to tell the legal system to go to he!!.
     
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  7. elsie

    elsie Way over there on the left Well-Known Member

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    I believe the OP is speaking of Article I, Section 16: "Section 16. Excessive bail and fines; cruel and unusual punishments; power of jury in criminal case. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed. Cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted, but all penalties shall be proportioned to the offense.—In all criminal cases whatever, the jury shall have the right to determine the law, and the facts under the direction of the Court as to the law, and the right of new trial, as in civil cases."

    My understanding of this, which could be flawed, is that the jury can decide that the law was improperly applied, unjust, or whatever and find for acquittal. This is a double edged sword, as others have mentioned.


    elsie
     
  8. raindog

    raindog Portland, OR Active Member

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    Elsie is exactly right.

    I would never lie to get on a jury, but if I was on a jury and the law was plainly wrong, unconstitutional, or poorly applied, I wouldn't hesitate to vote to acquit and stick to my guns (so to speak).

    Think about it this way...you can vote how you decide. You are under no obligation to explain why you voted the way you did.
     
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  9. Bigfoot

    Bigfoot Clack Co. OR Well-Known Member

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    First, NOT A LAWYER!!

    It's my understanding that acquittal means the jury has given the defendant the presumption of innocence. IOW they didn't prove their case. It's the prosecutors job to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt and if the jury still has doubts of his guilt they can acquit because the preponderance of evidence didn't fall against the defendant in their eyes.

    IMO the OP is asking about something else. Say it's illegal for a fella to possess a firearm, but he goes out shooting and the cops (plural) pull up, cameras (plural) rolling as the guy fires off a burst. Handcuffs, jail, many witnesses, firearm chain of custody, DNA, fingerprints etc. Now even if his slick lawyer claims he was entrapped or both tapes were rigged, the DNA was altered and all the cops and witnesses were lying etc (IOW an OJ jury) then there's no way a jury can HONESTLY say that it's not likely that he had that gun in his hands, THEY SAW THE TAPES. But they vote not guilty anyway because they like him or they don't like the law. That's jury nullification IMO.

    EDIT: Forgot the last part. Can't charge him again so unless they can find someone who can claim damage for a civil suit later he's a free man. Might even go out shooting to celebrate but he's going to get a different jury next time.
     
  10. chemist

    chemist Beaverton OR Well-Known Member

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    Excellent time for this thread!
    Oregon is one of only four states in which jury nullification is enshrined in our state constitution: EVERY jury, civil and criminal, decides on the law, not just the facts of the case.
    Fully Informed Jury Association
    I expect that we the people will be using this honest, just, and lawful means of resistance to unconstitutional and tyrannical acts of a government that's out of control.
     
  11. pokerace

    pokerace Newberg Well-Known Member

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    Oregon


    Oregon’s Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 16, states:
    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed. Cruel and unusual punishments shall
    not be inflicted, but all penalties shall be proportioned to the offense. In all criminal cases whatever, the
    jury shall have the right to determine the law, and the facts under the direction of the Court as to the law,
    and the right of new trial, as in civil cases.
     
  12. gehrheart

    gehrheart fidalgo island Well-Known Member

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    A good one just happened in Minnesota over selling of raw whole milk.

    State passed a law that it was now Illegal to sell whole raw milk to customers that asked for it. A farmer continued anyway and was arrested. it went to court and the jury nullified the law, letting him go and as such reversed the law!

    I personally am a big fan of this process!! And more people need to know they have this right while on jury duty!! This is the best way to break bad laws!
     
  13. Bushman

    Bushman Auburn, WA Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. Every time I've been on jury duty, they ask you if you believe in jury nullification. If you do, you are dismissed. Also, they make you watch a video that says you must decide based on the evidence, whether the crime the person is charged with was committed, not whether the crime is just, etc. :-(
     
  14. Grunwald

    Grunwald Out of that nut job colony of Seattle, WA Well-Known Member

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    It really does not matter whether the concept is enshrined in the state constitution or not. The US Constitution give everyone a right to a trial by a jury. The jury is the sole arbiter of the law. The judge can muzzle the defense from informing the jury of all the options that they have, but if they come in with that knowledge and decide to nullify a law by returning a "not guilty" verdict that is their right.

    Over the last couple of days this topic has surfaced in various places on the internet. It really needs to get pushed to as many people as possible. That is the great thing about the American legal system. In the end the common people serving on a jury can decide if the government overstepped its constitutional boundry.
     
  15. Grunwald

    Grunwald Out of that nut job colony of Seattle, WA Well-Known Member

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    and that is a case of court commiting fraud upon the people.
    I wonder if a reply of "no constitutional law should be nullified by the jury".
     
  16. GOG

    GOG State of Jefferson Well-Known Member

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    It's a great concept and a necessary tool for fairness in the courts. Unfortunately we live under an over restricted, tyrannical and in many cases an unjust "justice system".

    Why do IRS agents have guns? When did "Peace Officers" become "Law Enforcement Officers"? You get the idea.

    The Founding Fathers would not have stood by and let happen to them what we've let happen to us. Sadly, we have let this tyranny happen to us and we are now paying the price for doing so. Better late than never, but make no mistake, we're very late to this. So late in fact, that the overarching government hasn't been by the People or for the People for many years. The Constitution has become a mere nuisance to the political ruling class.

    I'm as guilty as the next person and I fear the course of government may be unchangeable.
     
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  17. Squidly

    Squidly Sandy Active Member

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    Jury nullification is just as necessary as the rest of the constitution. It is true that it can be used wrongly by unjust people, but that is true about anything. Look at our courts, our congress, our president. Jury nullification puts power in the hands of individuals. There is no wasted ink on the constitution.
     
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  18. PromptCritical

    PromptCritical Oregon City, OR Member

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    It goes further than that. Even if the state puts up a perfect case and the defense sucks and the defendant does everything short of confess (hell if he confesses and the trial continues somehow), the jury still has a right to pronounce a "not guilty" verdict.

    Just like the Klan mentioned above, I hear a lot of people were acquitted during prohibition too. Whole lot of jury members who liked to drink with the foresight to realize that they themselves may be sitting there on the stand because of something that even though the law is completely constitutional, was still wrong.

    So there are a lot of people who fall back to the old "Well he broke the law" even if they think the law is unjust. That needs to stop. If I have jury duty and they ask about nullification, I guess I'm going home. If they don't, and the case is some sort of Malum Prohibitum crime, the state better make a damn good case as to why the defendent deserves what penalties are sought, other than "It's the LAW!"

    Also, I don't see myself convicting anyone on any firearms possession charge whatsoever.
     
  19. osterr1999

    osterr1999 Silverton, OR Active Member

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    Jury nullification happened all the time during prohibition. How could you send someone to jail for making or possessing alcohol when you drank every weekend. People saw the hypocrisy and jurys refused to convict.
     
  20. dmancornell

    dmancornell Portland, OR New Member

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    Jury nullification is not only a Constitutional right, it's a moral duty.

    Look at it this way, if you are actually asked if you believe in jury nullification, just answer truthfully and you save yourself the agony of wasting untold hours listening to some government lawyer. If they don't ask, then you have the pleasure of acquitting someone from unjust persecution.