Jury Nullification

Background

In countries that retain a jury system, it is sometimes possible for the defense attorney to argue for jury nullification. Jury nullification occurs when a jury chooses to acquit an individual even though evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that they committed the crime.

Even in jurisdictions in the United States where juries are restricted to fact-finding, the phenomenon of jury nullification is both documented and accepted as generally constitutional.

Whether the defense attorney can directly appeal to the jury for nullification will depend upon the jurisdiction. In Indiana, a direct appeal to the jury is possible as jury is the final arbiter of both facts and laws under the Indiana Constitution.

Examples of Jury Nullification

In pre-Civil War United States, juries sometimes refused to convict defendants for violations of the Fugitive Slave Act. During prohibition, juries sometimes refused to convict defendants for violating the 19th Amendment. Jury nullification may also have occurred throughout the history of the United States when all-white juries failed to convict white individuals being tried for the murder of African-Americans.


See Defenses