The role of the jury has been the product of ongoing debate and controversy. Two dichotomous perspectives argue for opposing views about what the power of the jury should entail. A common perspective emphasizes the jury’s role as a “fact finder” which should “follow the law” and determine accuracy of the case being presented before the court. (Horowtiz, Willging 166) An opposing perspective concludes that the jury’s role also includes the ability to provide a referendum on the law if they view law is unjust or being applied unjustly in a process known as jury nullification. Horowitz and Willging describe jury nullification as a situation in jurors do not convict the defendant because the “strict interpretation of the law would result in an injustice or a violation of the moral conscience of the community.” (Horowtiz, Willging 166) Individuals who do not support the ability of the jury nullify a law claim that it is “one sided” and consequently only confers an advantage to the defense. (Horowtiz, Willging 166)
The jury is an integral part of the United States legal system and its existence is specified in the United States constitution under the 6th amendment. (Constitution) Various critical issues surrounding jury nullification require close examination such as the processes overall constitutionality and how the process should be applied in U.S. legal policy in regards to juror instructions. (Horowitz, Willging 166) Essentially, the issue straddles the concept of juror empowerment, asking the question what kinds of powers are appropriate to bestow upon the jury. Jury nullification should become a more substantial part of the legal process and jurors should be informed of their ability to represent the “moral conscience of the community.” (Horowitz, Williging 166)
Background and Literature Review
A key case which occurred shortly after the ratification of the Constitution provides insight into the historical precedent of the role of jury nullification. (Horowitz, Willging 167) The case entitled Georgia V. Brailsford officially recognized the ability of the jury to weigh the legitimacy of the law when considering a sentence. (Horowtiz, willging 167) Additionally, the case was presided over by the first Chief Justice, John Jay, which adds even more veracity to the ruling. (Horowitz, Willging, possibly don’t include) The ruling established the role of the jury as a vanguard to protect the citizenry from “harsh and unjust laws.” (Horotwiz, willging 167)
Horowitz and Willging write that the ability of the jury was championed because of the nature of the “agricultural community.” (Horowitz, Willging) The authors cite Howe’s suggestion that rural farmers would prefer to have been judged by their “neighbors.” (Horowitz, Willging) The issue of jury nullification was once again reviewed in the United States v. Battiste case. The opinion delivered by Justice Story articulated the point that the “jury are the judges of law, as well as the fact.”...