Jury Nullification

bernhard goetz by david levine

Jury nullification occurs when a jury reaches a verdict contrary to the weight of evidence. Widely, it is any rendering of a verdict by a trial jury contrary to the letter of the law—that is, of an official rule, and especially a legislative enactment. Jury nullification need not disagree with the instructions by the judge—which concern what the law (common or otherwise) is—but it may rule contrary to an instruction requiring the jury to apply the law to the defendant in light of the facts in evidence.

A jury verdict contrary to the letter of the law pertains only to the particular case before it; however, if a pattern of identical verdicts develops in response to repeated attempts to prosecute a statutory offense, it can have the de facto effect of invalidating the statute. A pattern of jury nullification may indicate public opposition to an unwanted legislative enactment.

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