Jury nullification occurs when the selected jury determined a verdict based on personal beliefs of feelings. Jury nullification can be very unfair to several parties involved in a court case. The jurors feel that they are sending a message to criminal justice operatives by taking the law into their own hands and making a decision based on bias feelings. These feelings generally involve minority groups of people as well as those have a strong dislike for minority people. This paper will discuss jury nullification and its influence on the courtroom proceedings.
Ethnicity and Courtroom Proceedings
Ethnicity does have an effect on court room proceedings and practices. Ethnicity can have both a positive effect and negative effect on court room proceedings and practices. There are many people who have strong feelings of hatred towards minority citizens. Additionally, there are also people who minority citizens have a strong feeling of hate towards as well. Since these two groups feel a certain way about each other, it is anticipated that there will be some disagreements between the groups that will sometimes end up being resolved by the courts.
In these situations, the courtroom proceedings and practices can be tainted. Ethnicity Based Jury Nullification Race has been very prominent in our country for many years. However, there were times when race was at its peak and minorities were frequently targeted by those who hated them. In the mid-1900s, when civil rights and discrimination were widespread concern in the Southern States, jury nullification took place very frequently. African American citizens were frequently charged and proven guilty for crimes that they sometimes did not commit.
The courtroom practices were corrupt and many of the courtroom workgroup members worked against African Americans instead of ensuring that they received a fair trial. The workgroup ensured that jury only consisted of Caucasian citizens. Even if all of the evidence proved that the African American was not guilty, the person would still be found guilty of the crime because they were disliked by the community. In such situations, jury nullification was unfair and justice was definitely not being served. However, such jury nullification has occurred in recent years and for similar reasons, but with opposite results.
The issue still stems from racism and discrimination. However, the courtroom practices have evolved and minority individuals are able to act as jurors. There have been some cases where the jury was composed of mostly minority individuals. In these cases, the minority jurors decide on a not guilty verdict based on their feelings on trial and the person standing trial. Jury Nullification occurs when the minority jurors deliver a not guilty verdict based on their feelings of mistreat or abuse from the criminal justice workgroup.
They feel that their community and the person being accused of the crime have been mistreated or neglected by those attempting to imprison the defendant. Either of these situations can be twisted in different directions. Due to the mistreatment that African Americans received from Caucasian Americans, if a jury was composed of all African Americans, this group would base their verdict on their feelings against the Caucasian group of people. It would also be true if the jurors were composed of mostly minority people and the person on trial was a member of the courtroom workgroup that they feel that they have been abused by.
Ethnicity Based Jury Nullification Example
One example of jury nullification occurred during the OJ Simpson trial. According to Marder (1999), “The OJ Simpson trial is another example of race based jury nullification. ” The jury in this case believed that prosecution and the police officers who completed the investigation tampered with the evidence because of racist beliefs. Many of the jurors in the case were African American. Although much of the evidence suggested that Simpson was guilty of the crime committed, the jury has reason to believe that the evidence was lacking due to misconduct of the criminal justice workgroup.
Another example of jury nullification is the Bronx jury. “The Bronx jury is a jury made up of mainly minorities who refuse to convict minority defendants” (Keneally, 2011). The Bronx jury was created because of the widespread belief that the criminal justice system targets minority groups. Such juries like the Bronx juries are expanding across the nation, especially in states with large minority populations. These juries are not convicting any minority offenders. The people involved in these juries is to get the attention of the criminal justice system.
They also believe that it will help keep minority citizens who have been victimized by police officer and other members of the system from being unjustly convicted.
Jury Nullification is flawed. While many people may believe that this this process could be helpful, I believe that it is more hurtful to the system than helpful. I believe that the jury selection process should be random. The jurors that are selected should be of mixed race and the number should be even. The convictions should be based on the evidence provided.
If it is proven that the offender is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then the person should be convicted as such. If an offender is convicted wrongly, it should not be based on the jury’s decision but the evidence provided. The people who investigated the crime should be held responsible for their mistakes because such mistakes can affect the lives of many different people including the offender. There should be stricter laws enforced by the government on acts of discrimination and racism. Jury nullification allows for too much gray area.
The law already takes many different meanings, shapes, and forms that directly affect the courtroom practices. Jury nullification intensifies the affect. I think it will make the criminal justice system more dishonest that it already is and will ultimately damage it. Although there may be some positive aspects, I do not believe that these aspects outweigh the negative. A court case should be fair for all parties involved. It should not favor any side without having the proper proof to support the decision that are made.
While I am aware that discrimination will not completely ever leave the courtroom and its practices, I do believe that harsher punishment can deter this from occurring so that our system focuses more on justice and not revenge or unnecessary bias.
- KENEALLY, J. M. (2011). Jury Nullification, Race, and The Wire. New York Law School Law Review, 55(4), 941-959. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
- Marder, N. (1999). The Myth of the Nullifying Jury, Northwestern University Law Review, 93, 877. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.