On a Jury you know your options: guilty, or
not. But there’s another choice that neither the judge nor the lawyers will tell you — often
because they’re not allowed to and also it might better if you don’t know. This video will tell you that third choice,
but be warned: simply watching may prevent you from ever serving on a jury — so this
is your last chance to hit the pause button before you learn about… Jury nullification: when the defendant is
100% beyond-a-reasonable-doubt guilty but the jurors also think he shouldn’t be punished.
The jury can nullify the law and let him go free. But before your on your next jury and yell
‘Null! Booya!’ at the judge you should know that just talking about jury nullification
in the wrong circumstances can get you arrested. Though a video such as this one, simply acknowledging
the existence of jury nullification and in no way advocating it is totally OK.
And, while we’re at it: (CGP Grey is not a lawyer, this is not legal advice,
it is meant for entertainment purposes only. Seriously, guy, don’t do anything in a court of law
based on what an Internet Video told you. No joke.) So why can’t you do this? It’s because nullification
isn’t in the law , but exists as a logical consequence of two other laws: First: that juries can’t be punished for a
wrong decision — no matter the witnesses, DNA evidence or video proof show.
That’s the point of a jury: to be the decider. and, Second: when a defendant is found not-guilty,
that defendant can’t be tried again for the same crime. So there are only two stated options: guilty
or not, it’s just that jury nullification is when the words of the jurors don’t match
their thoughts — for which they can’t be punished and their not-guilty decision can’t
be changed. These laws are necessary for juries to exist
within a fair system, but the logical consequence is… contentious — lawyers and judges argue
about jury nullification like physicists argue about quantum mechanics. Both are difficult
to observe and the interpretation of both has a huge philosophical ramification for
the subject as a whole. Is nullification the righteous will of the
people or an anarchy of twelve or just how citizens judge their laws? The go-to example in favor of nullification
is the fugitive slave law: when Northern juries refused to convict escaped slaves and set
them free. Can’t argue with that. But the anarchy side is Southern juries refusing
to convict lynch mobs. Not humanity at its best. But both of these are juries nullifying the law. Also juries have two options where their
thoughts may differ from their words. Jury nullification usually refers to the non-guilty
version but juries can convict without evidence just as easily as they can acquit in spite
of it. This is jury nullification too and the jurors
are protected by the first rule, though the second doesn’t apply and judges have the power
to overrule a guilty verdict if they think the jurors are… nt the best. And, of course,
a guilty defendant can appeal, at least for a little while. Which makes the guilty form
of jury nullification weaker than the not-guilty kind. Cold comfort, though. Given the possibility of jurors who might
ignore the law as written, it’s not surprising when picking jurors for a trial, lawyers — whose
existence is dependent on an orderly society — will ask about nullification, usually in
the slightly roundabout way: “Do you have any beliefs that might prevent
you from making a decision based strictly on the law?” If after learning about jury nullification
you think it’s a good idea: answer ‘yes’ and you’ll be rejected, but answer ‘no’ with the
intent to get on the jury to nullify and you’ve just committed perjury — technically a federal
crime — which makes the optimal strategy once on a jury to zip it. But This introduces a problem for jurors who
intend to nullify: telling the other 11 angry men about your position is risky, which makes
nullification as a tool for fixing unjust laws nation wide problematic. (Not to mention about 95% of criminal charges
in the United States never make it to trial and rather end in a plea bargain, but that’s
a story for another time.) The only question about jury nullification
that may matter is if jurors should be told about it and the courts are near universal
in their decision: ‘no way’. Which, again, might seem self-interested —
courts depend on the law — but there’s evidence that telling jurors about nullification changes
the way they vote by making evidence less relevant — which isn’t surprising: that’s
what nullification is. But mock trials also show sympathetic defendants get more non-guilty
verdicts and unsympathetic defendants get more guilty verdicts in front of jurors
who were explicitly told about nullification compared to those who weren’t. Which sounds bad, but it also isn’t difficult
to imagine situations where jurors blindly following the law would be terribly unjust
— which is the heart of nullification: juries judge the law, not solely evidence. In the end righteous will of the people, or
anarchy, or citizen lawmaking — the system leaves you to decide — but as long as courts
are fair they require these rules, so jury nullification will always be with us.