Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thom Brooks on "A Defence of Jury Nullification"

Thom Brooks, "A Defence of Jury Nullification," Res Publica 10(4) (2004): 401-23. (subscription-only)


In both Great Britain and the United States there has been a growing debate about the modern acceptability of jury nullification. Properly understood, juries do not have any constitutional right to ignore the law, but they do have the power to do so nevertheless. Juries that nullify may be motivated by a variety of concerns: too harsh sentences, improper government action, racism, etc. In this article, I shall attempt to defend jury nullification on a number of grounds. First, I discuss the use of general verdicts and reject their replacement in criminal trials by special verdicts. Second, I examine verdicts based upon mistakes and racial prejudice, turning my attention to perverse verdicts and the question of whether or not juries are guilty of legislating when nullifying the law. Finally, I look at the problem of the awarding of excessive damages by juries. My goal will be to provide a sound theoretical defence of the practice of jury nullification.

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