Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/24/14: Jury Nullification

The practice of jury nullification–where juries render a verdict in opposition to the evidence and the law–is a legacy of the common law notion of the independence of juries. Most commonly it involves juries acquitting a defendant in the face of guilt, due to their belief in the injustice of the law, or a belief that the law is being unjustly applied. In the case of Sparf v. U.S. (1895), the Supreme Court held that a trial judge has no responsibility to notifiy a jury of the right of nullification; as such, it is common practice for judges to forbid references to jury nullification. As of 2012, only one state — New Hampshire — allows defense attorneys to inform juries about this option.

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