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Race Based Jury Nullification Essay

1351 words - 6 pages

Race-Based Jury NullificationAbstractInternet research clearly showed a long history for jury nullification in the US. An explanation of jury nullification, and in particular race based jury nullification, is that it is a method whereby juries nullify unfair laws by declaring guilty defendants not guilty. Race based nullification is where a jury acquits and individual based on their race. This is commonly found in homogenous juries where there is little jury diversity. Past cases such as runaway slave laws and current cases such as police shootings show that race-based nullification is still an issue in modern courtrooms. The conclusion being that jury nullification is an important power ...view middle of the document...

Another example of this trend were the civil rights trials of white supremacists in the south in the 50's and 60's; in these cases all white juries would refuse to convict white defendants of the murder of black people or civil rights workers. (Emal, 1995)These cases clearly show that there have been many examples of jury nullification in the past in our country. Since a return of a not guilty verdict allows the jury to effectively end prosecution with no appeal allowed by the state it means that juries actually have final say about when and if a law is utilized. This allows juries the power to actually use their conscience when voting to convict or release a defendant. One possible outcome of jury nullification is the possibility of a major increase in hung juries. Race has figured in many instances of jury nullification so there is a clear precedent for race based jury nullification. (Emal, 1995) Recently all white juries have refused to convict white police officers in wrongful shooting trials where the victim was black. Also black juries have refused to convict clearly guilty defendants of crimes on the grounds that there are too many black people in prison already. (Butler, 1995) Another possible reason for jury nullification is to punish prosecutors and police for tactics, which the jurors find unpalatable.Many people recently felt that the O.J. Simpson trial was race based jury nullification; similarly the Rodney King trial would be an example. In both of these cases many people felt that the individual was guilty but that they were released because of their race. Some states have proposed that juries should have racial quotas in order to avoid possible race based nullification. In this system jurors who should be excused could be kept even if they were unsatisfactory if they fit some particular racial need. These attempts to eliminate jury nullification point to the seriousness with which this power is viewed.Some black lawmakers have said that since a jury is representative of a community then jurors should have the right to decide which people they will allow to live among them. (Butler, 1995) This basically means that jurors exercise their power based on conscience and not based on the facts of the case. This means that black juries would acquit non-violent black defendants even in cases where they were clearly guilty to nullify the effects of a predominantly white judicial system. The belief here is that the laws are inherently unfair because they were created by and for white people. (Butler, 1995)Clearly there is a place for jury nullification in the US. There has been a long history of unfair laws and practices in the country and allowing the jury the power to overturn or nullify them is a good...

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