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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jury Nullification

There’s a dirty little secret in the criminal justice system prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges don’t want you to know about: The Jury does not have to follow the instructions of the judge when it comes to interpreting the law when they deliberate. They can make up their own minds regarding how the law should be applied. It’s called Jury Nullification.

Jury Nullification has been around for years. It was used to acquit those who helped slaves escape after the Fugitive Slave Law was passed in the 1850s.  It was used during prohibition to acquit alcohol smugglers 60 percent of the time. In all cases, the jury refused to convict individuals because they felt that the law being applied in that case was unfair and unjust.

Prosecutors and judges don’t want you know about Jury Nullification because your ignorance of the law benefits them. It allows them to process and clear criminal cases and appear like they’re sending criminals to jail through due process.

And because the Jury only knows about the judges interpretation of the law, they convict people based on the law instead of the facts in a case. 

But sometimes we the people have to re-interpret the law, because how those in the criminal justice system are applying it in an unjust manner. Like in the case of Rayon McIntosh. If there was ever a case for Jury Nullification, it’s his.

If enough people on juries took the time to interpret the law as they saw fit it could change the laws of the land. It was the numerous acquittals of smugglers that led to the repealing of the Prohibition laws back in the 1930s.

Personally, I feel if people of color knew about Jury Nullification and applied it during the deliberations of brothers and sisters, I feel that there would be fewer African-American  males in the prison system. This could change how the judicial system views our issues in the community. 

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