Jury nullification occurs when a jury releases a person who is found guilty of a crime that they are being charged with. When a defendant is found not guilty by a jury, the facts of the case and/or the judge’s recommendation regarding the law are not taken seriously, instead the jury bases it vote on their own conscience. When the race of the defendant has any determinant on the outcome of the juries’ decision to drop charges despite the overwhelming amount of evidence, race based jury nullification becomes the case.
“Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent jury nullification from occurring because members of a jury cannot be ordered to convict or suffer consequences for acquitting a defendant. A jury acquittal, under the Constitution, is final” (Conrad, 1999, pg. 1 para. 1). When the topic of race-based jury nullification is discussed, all races involved should focus primarily on their personal perception of the events that transpired, rather than the races of the citizens involved. Racial jury nullification is known to be a hotly debatable topic whether society is for or against it.
Both parties have strong opinions and facts to support their thoughts coupled with many reasons to support their opinion. The effects of such major differences in opinions definitely takes its toll on minorities and their trust within America’s criminal justice system. When racial jury nullification was recognized and became a serious issue, many communities decided to make sure a certain number of minorities are placed on the jury to ensure there would not be as many cases where racial biases could ultimately determine the final decision made on a defendant.
In addition to making sure a certain amount of minorities compose every jury, judges always remind jurors to go into the jury room with the understanding that the races involved have no place in the final decision of the case. “Race based jury nullification does not promote the unity of society and it diminishes the relationship minorities try to build with the criminal justice system” (Rivera, 2006, pg. 1, para. 2). The thought process is simply racial and based on discrimination as we know it, society needs to continue educate individuals on how negative race based ideas can be in demoralizing and destroy the minds of our children.
Ethnicity has an influence on courtroom proceedings and judicial practices in the criminal justice system. Race can impact the vibe in the courtroom and ultimately decides how the jury determines if a defendant is guilty or innocent. Nancy King (2003) “states that jury members who did not agree with civil rights were known to find white defendants not guilty” (Jury Nullification Is Unfair, para. 1). Ku Klux Klan sympathizers were barred from serving on juries after the Civil War, when the Klan act was enacted in 1871.
Texas tends to have an attitude of supremacy since they are the only state that was its own independent entity prior to becoming a part of the United States. The denial to discipline those who committed crimes against African Americans was Texas resident’s way of exercising their beliefs that they were above the laws of other states. In chapter 14 of the book Racial Profiling written by David A. Harris (2006), Harris states that race impacts the courtroom in other ways as well (Racial Profiling Undermines the U. S. Legal System, pg. 150).
For example, if a jury is predominantly African-Americans that have a negative perception of police officers, they may disagree with an officer’s testimony in the case or even ignore the facts. Not considering such evidence can be beneficial to the outcome of a trial. There are not many valid arguments that support ethnicity-based jury nullification. The jury was not composed to take the law into their own hands or petition against the government. Jury members take an oath to render a verdict according to the evidence, which is the opposite of what jury nullification stands for.
Nancy King (2003) suggests, “To invite nullification is to invite jurors to devise their own defenses to a criminal charge” (Jury Nullification Is Unfair, para. 3). This results in a jury finding a defendant not guilty of rape because they believe the victim dressed provocatively thus welcoming the sexual advances concluding that the victim got what he/she deserved. The real problem could be stated that by not having an accurate knowledge base of the law, jurors are not really capable of interpreting the law on their own.
Their interpretations are likely to be based on their personal views, opinions, and evidence. Allowing jury nullification of any kind is detrimental to our justice system and corrupts what the criminal justice system is all about. “There is no way to prevent jury nullification because juries never can be ordered to convict or be punished for acquitting someone” (Rivera, 2006, pg. 1, para. 3). The American criminal justice system is firm on the belief that society deserves their chance at a fair trial, there are cases though that end in jury nullification.
These cases go against our criminal justice system’s belief of being fair and impartial. Society is familiar with a few famous cases in the history of our justice system that ended in jury nullifications that were based mainly on ethnicity. One example is the Rodney King case. The four Caucasian officers that were on trial were acquitted of the brutal beating. The jury consisted of ten Caucasians, one Hispanic, and one Filipino person. Another example of a famous case in our country’s history was when a Jewish citizen was stabbed by an African-American mob.
The jury that was present for this case was predominantly African -Americans who upon investigation were found partying with the defendant during the trial. These are cases that caused racial tension and between different ethnicities and their respective communities. A more recent case that ended in ethnicity based jury nullification took place in Pennsylvania. A Hispanic American by the name of Luis Eduardo Ramirez-Zavalo was killed after he was beat to death by a group of local football players.
The all Caucasian jury sentenced the individuals from seven to twenty-three months. The jury was given evidence that the cause of death was a kick to the head that was done by one of the football players but that was not enough evidence and motivation to encourage them to come back with a stricter sentence. It is without a doubt unfair when a defendant life is on the line and there are deceased victims involved in the cases that our justice system still does not comply and disregards the obvious facts.
Allowing a jury of your peers to hear the case and decide the outcome is the fairest way possible for defendants who are on trial but there is absolutely no way to be 100% sure that there will not be a jury nullification (Brasch, 2009). As already stated, jury trials are supposed to be the fairest way for an individual to be found guilty or not guilty, but when there is potential for issues such as ethnicity based jury nullifications to occur it is hard to comply with this being the best available method.
These actions should be condoned by our criminal justice system, yet they are. Allowing the chance for a guilty person to walk away unscathed or an innocent person to be put behind bars should not be acceptable, but yet we are faced with thousands of cases that result in this manner. In conclusion, jury nullification occurs daily in the United States court system. When racial jury nullification was proposed and authorize, communities decided to make sure a certain number of minorities were on the jury to ensure there would not be any racial bias in the final decision-making.
Race can impact the decisions that are discussed in the courtroom and ultimately how the jury determines guilt or innocence. There is not a lot of research that supports valid arguments for ethnicity-based jury nullification. A jury is not there to take the law into their own hands or petition against the government. The criminal justice system is firm on their beliefs that everyone deserves their chance at a fair trial; however there are cases that end in jury nullification.
Though most of society believes that jury nullification does not transpire because juries are made up of a variety of races, the fact still remains that jury nullification still occurs and whether it is wrong or right is an issue that has to be address by the Criminal Justice Court System. References Brasch, W. (2009). Twelve angry white people: Jury nullification in a Pennsylvania coal town. Retrieved from http://pubrecord. org/nation/2069/twelve-angry-white-people-jury-nullification-in-a-Pennsylvania-coal-town/.
Conrad, C. (1999). Symposium. (juries nullifying unjust laws). Retrieved from http://www. highbeam. com/doc/1G1-54736559. html Harris, D. (2006). Racial profiling (2nd ed. ). Detroit, MI. : Greenhaven Press. King, N. (2003). Jury Nullification Is Unfair. Retrieved from http://www. enotes. com/legal-system-article/jury-nullification-unfair Rivera, D. (2006). Race Based Jury Nullification. Retrieved from http://voices. yahoo. com/race-based-jury-nullification-28921. html? cat=17.