December 11, 2011

Proponent of jury nullification may not get a jury trial

I have written before about the important practice of jury nullification, in which juries exercise their option to be the ultimate judges of the validity of laws and have the right, if they think that the law itself is unjust, to acquit someone of a charge even if the person is clearly guilty of violating the law. (See here and here)

Juries have this right because they, not the legislators, are the ultimate judges of a whether a law is just and are the ultimate bulwark against governments that can manipulate the system to pass laws that are not in the public interest. Judges and prosecutors often oppose sharing information about this right with juries, another example of the desire of the elites to prevent ordinary people from exercising any power. Judges want to preserve their right to be the sole interpreters of the law while prosecutors do not want to allow another mechanism for acquittal.

This issue has once again come to the fore. Julian Heicklen, a retired Penn State professor of chemistry, is being charged with jury tampering because he handed out flyers outside a Manhattan courthouse informing those who entered the building (including prospective members of juries) of the right of juries to nullify. (I have written about this particular case before.)

Heicklen has asked for a jury trial, as is his right under Amendment VI and Amendment VII of the Bill of Rights of the US constitution, but this is being opposed because prosecutors fear that he will use jury nullification in his own trial as part of his defense against charges that he is illegally advocating jury nullification. Talk about a Catch-22.

This is exactly why the right to a trial by a fully informed jury is so important.


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