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on Monday, March 10th, 2008 at 6:52 am by Radley Balko
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20 Responses to “Monday Morning Poll: Jury Nullification Edition”
I would express my objections to the law during voir dire, even though that means I’d like be passed over for someone who would enforce what I fell is an immoral law. Not committing perjury is more important than preventing a bad law from being enforced.
I think I’d follow a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” during voir dare. I wouldn’t announce my intention to nullify, but I wouldn’t deny it if directly asked. Really, th only question I’d have to answer yes to would be “Do you believe that juries have to the right to nullify laws that they find unjust?”. Because, in truth, I would need to actually hear the facts of case before I determined whether I’d want to nullify.
Also, even though I don’t like to admit it, the defendant in such a case had better be a sympathetic figure, a good guy being screwed by the unjust application(Ryan Frederick) of an unjust law. Since I don’t think that capital murder law exists to protect police on raids, I could push for nullification.
I think he sums it up quite well. The jury is sovereign and not “even the King” has the power to tell the jury what verdict to deliver. If the law says what the sentence is then we don’t need the jury.
“I would give misleading quesitons during voir dire so I could get on a jury, then I would refuse to convict. However, I wouldn’t openly tell my fellow jurors I was nullifying.”
But as Dave noted, you can’t be sure until you’re in the situation so I might do this:
“I would express my objections to the law during voir dire, even though that means I’d like be passed over for someone who would enforce what I fell is an immoral law. Not committing perjury is more important than allowing a bad law to be enforced.”
I don’t see much benefit in openly nullifying then denying it later. (2nd to last option)
As for the last option, I guess if other people were doing it it would be worth some thought.
Comment about these polls, and the methodology:
I tried to see the results without voting, but I suspect that means that the first choice was my auto-vote. I think the results in your polls are being routinely biased towards the first choice because of this. Additionally, in several previous polls I felt that the first choice was sort your preferred answer, and that the mere positioning at the top of the list biased the poll as well. Any way to randomize the order?
Amplifyinging #2 – David.
There definitely needs to be an option that doesn’t presume “misleading” as part of the answer.
During a usual session of voir dire, and (unless it’s the “can you give the death penalty” question in the sentencing phase of a capital case) there just usually aren’t perjury-triggering questions along the lines we’re talking about.
I picked #4, becuase it was closest to the option I would like to have seen:
I’d sound like a good juror in voir dire (and I think I could do this without misleading, but whatever)…
Then, I’d initially make the best case I could in the jury room that the State had not proven their case, to try to sway jurors, before going with the final option: trying to convince others to nullify.
I think this would ultimately prove more effective (if the simulation were run a thousand times).
I tried to see the results without voting, but I suspect that means that the first choice was my auto-vote. I think the results in your polls are being routinely biased towards the first choice because of this.
I was wondering about that myself. The user should have to click something to pick a selection. If a default selection is required by the software, then it should be something like “No Selection” so it can be accounted for in viewing the results.
When I was going through voir dire, it wasn’t just one question. They persisted with multiple questions and it became increasingly difficult to ignore. In other words, as much as I wanted to avoid the issue of my opinion of drug laws, there was just no way without lying. And, believe me, I felt very strongly that by excluding myself from that jury, I was betraying the defendant as well as my own principles, so it’s not like I gave up lightly.
As to what the likelihood was that I would ever be prosecuted for perjury if I had lied, I haven’t a clue. I am just not comfortable with the idea of beginning such an important task with a lie. It seems like a gross corruption of the process.
47% would let their objections to the law be known during voir dare, which would likely lead to them being dismissed in favor of someone who doesn’t object.
Apologies. The questions are poorly-worded, and have some typos. I put the poll together very early this morning, and the site that generates the polls isn’t all that amenable to proofing. And I can’t correct the questions now without erasing the votes.
I was on a drug case and would have voted to convict if the prosecution had proved it’s case, even though I disagree with drug laws. That was my decision at the time and probably would still be today. Luckily the police and the prosecution were inept and it was pretty clear to all of us except one juror that needed convincing, that the law was on the defendant’s side.
One eye-opening observation was that a number of jury members would have voted to acquit no matter what — not because they opposed the criminalization of drugs, but because they sympathized with the defendant (ethnicity, social status, demeanor, personal history, whatever the reason — it clearly trumped reason or the facts of the case).
That answers the question for me. If there are perjury-triggering questions I would object to those questions. If the question is something along the lines of, “will you vote to convict if the evidence supports a conviction even if you disagree with the law,” then there’s a perjury trap and one could easily implicate other prospective jurors who have answered that question affirmatively in perjury.
The poll IS very poorly worded. Where’s the option to answer all questions honestly, but while keeping in mind that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and its limitations on the government supercede many, many of the laws in question?
Of course I’d judge according to “the law”, your honor. (The supreme law, and the lesser laws can piss off and die.)
I had a long and detailed exploration of this with a lawyer-friend of mine. S/he advised that if someone finds themselves on a case where jury nullification is called for, the proper action might be:
(1) Follow the judge’s instructions to the best of your ability.
(2) Deliberate, trying to persuade the other jurors as to the lack of proof.
(3) Make it one of your key arguments that you don’t believe the prosecution’s evidence. Evidence is only as believable as the person vouching for it. This works for both documentary (do you believe the witness introducing the evidence is trustworthy?) as well as personal testamentary witness evidence.
The reasons are:
(1) The judge decides the law, and the jury decides the facts; it is in the province of the judge to decide what the law is. You only get to decide the facts.
(2) If you don’t follow the judge’s instructions or refuse to deliberate, you are off the jury.
(3) If you admit to attempting jury nullification, then the defendant was never put in jeopardy, and s/he can be re-prosecuted for the same crime even if found not guilty.
(4) If you lied during voir dire, you could be prosecuted for perjury.