No one can take away from you the fierce independence of what you think. No law can stop you from thinking what you think. It is your ultimate independence.
“Jury nullification” is a powerful expression of the independence our founding fathers demonstrated more than two hundred years ago.
They lived nullification.
The laws imposed by the British crown on the American colonies in the mid 1700s were unjust and therefore, the founding fathers said, those laws were to be ignored. Those unjust laws the colonists refusal to abide by are the cause, the reason for the Declaration of Independence.
In essence they said, “We reject these so-called laws. We will do things in ways that seem right to us.”
They rejected the laws.
This understanding that invalid laws could and should be ignored was, therefore, common amongst the founders. Indeed, when the Constitution was drafted, it acknowledged trial by jury as the ultimate method of appeal because trial by jury could therefore overrule any law just as the founders had ignored the unjust laws of the British crown. Trial by jury was, therefore, how “the people” would overturn bad laws. They would simply ignore them.
That made juries, as the Constitution intended, more powerful than the government, more powerful than any laws that the elected legislature might pass.
John Adams said of jurors, “it is not only his right, but his duty – to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.”
Abraham Lincoln said this is a “government of the people, by the people and for the people”.
People come first, not laws.
Since then, however, legislatures have made laws that seek to suppress this ability, to tell jurors they must follow the dictates of the law first.
But the right to nullification is fundamental. Our very founding is based on it. The founders nullified British law. And we can, therefore, choose to nullify the laws that attempt to nullify nullification.
We can ignore such laws.
You have the right.
You have the moral duty.
Next time you’re on jury duty, listen to the judge’s instructions. He may attempt to tell you otherwise but, once behind closed doors, it is your moral duty to decide guilt or innocence not according to the laws of the land, but according to your conscience.
What you decide in your own mind and according to your own sense of right and wrong is, after all, completely up to you.
“After hearing all the evidence, all the statements of the attorneys and all your instructions as well, your Honor, it is my judgement that the defendant is …”
It is your duty.