March 05, 2011

Man prosecuted for publicizing jury nullification

I have written before (here and here) about how few people know about 'jury nullification', which is the right of juries to acquit some one even if there is no doubt that the law had been broken, if they think that the law used to convict is itself unjust. It is thanks to jury nullification that we now have constitutional protections of freedom of the press and association and assembly.

Although the right of juries to nullify is well established, judges and prosecutors tend to not like it to be well known, the former because it means that juries have the right to ignore their instructions and the latter because they want juries to convict.

Now there is a case where a retired Penn Sate chemistry professor standing outside a courthouse handing out leaflets informing potential juries of their right to nullify has been arrested and charged with jury tampering.

Scott Horton also talks about the case and the history of jury nullification. Sam Smith also discusses the case.


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I read of this man's indictment. I hope he wins. I'm curious, when a jury does exercise this right, can the judge overturn their decision? I think I recall that a judge can certainly modify a sentencing opinion of a jury. Can the judge modify an actual acquittal?
Thanks. I saw your blog on the freethinkers email I received and will try to hear your talk tonite.

Posted by Henry on March 5, 2011 10:15 AM

Can I just say that I find your posts so informative - thank you.

I never knew this and I'm not sure what to think to be honest - more political madness - I'm not sure.

Posted by epi on March 5, 2011 10:45 AM

A jury's acquittal cannot be reviewed or reversed except, perhaps if it was found that the jury had been tampered with (bribed, threatened, blackmailed, etc.) If a person who clearly broke a law is acquitted by jury nullification the judge has no power to reverse it and it cannot be appealed. The jury essentially nullified the law, hence the name for such an action.

Posted by Matthew on March 5, 2011 10:50 AM

More madness!
Firstly stupid laws are put in place and secondly jury's have the power not to follow them.

It's like banning conkers in school and leather football's because the people in charge can't be bothered to administer things correctly.

Posted by schwinn on March 5, 2011 10:51 AM