The process whereby a jury in a criminal case effectively nullifies a law by acquitting a defendant regardless of the weight of evidence against him or her (Duane, 1996) . The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees persons due process and equal protection of the laws, and this has been applied also to mean that any persons charged with a crime is afforded a jury of his or her peers (Rottman, Hansen, Mott, & Grimes, 2003) . This paper will address if ethnicity influences courtroom proceedings and judicial practices. Review the arguments for and against ethnicity-based jury nullification.
List examples of ethnicity-based jury nullification. Conclude with a position for or against ethnicity-based jury nullification with a defense of the decision. Ethnicity has influenced courtroom proceedings and judicial practices for hundreds of years. Beginning with pre-civil war, slavery, and the people charged with assisting the slaves on the underground railroad and setting them free. During prohibition between 1921-1923 there were 7000 arrests made and only 27 convictions, which is less than 1% because the jurors were not in favor of the law.
A person should be judged on the bases of the law. The argument of ethnicity- based jury nullification has been circulating for years in this country. Some white juries in the 1960s could sentence a person of different race because of the members on the jury. Many believe that juries who racially identify with the criminal defendant deliver a not guilty verdict, where the evidence appears overwhelmingly to point to guilt, have, in fact engaged in jury nullification. There are several arguments stating that jury nullification has pro’s and con’s.
One argument is; should the judge be allowed to inform the jury of the nullification process or be able to persuade the jurors to nullify a case? Another question is; should the judge let the defense try to persuade the jury to nullify? Appellate courts do not allow a defense attorney to tell the jurors about their power to nullify nor can the attorney urge them to use it. Some say that jury nullification is an embarrassing glitch in the law. The justice system does not want jurors to know about jury nullification because it uses biases toward the criminal or the crime committed.
By not using jury nullification it will keep guilty offenders incarcerated, ensure fair trials, and keeps recidivism from happening over again. The con’s of jury nullification are jurors could let guilty offenders off, which in turns does not let them be tried again for the same crime causing a “double jeopardy. ” Jurors that use nullification may base their verdicts on personal feelings instead of the facts of the case. This can also create a biased jury panel. There are several examples in recent history of ethnicity-based jury nullification.
First the O. J. Simpson trial consisted of eight African American, one White, one Hispanic, two mixed race; eight women, four men. September 29, 1995| The case goes to the jury. | October 2, 1995| After four hours, jury announces that it has reached a verdict. | October 3, 1995| Jury finds O. J. Simpson not guilty of two counts of murder. | October 23, 1996| Opening statements in civil trial. Jury consists of nine Whites, one African American, one Hispanic, and one person of mixed Asian and African ancestry.
| November 22, 1996| Simpson testifies before a jury for the first time. He denies killing Goldman or his former wife, but cannot explain the physical evidence against him. | February 4, 1997| Jury finds Simpson liable and awards plaintiffs $8. 5 million in compensatory damages. | The above table taken from (Linder, 1995) The above time line shows the first part of the case that has a jury that closely resembles O. J. ‘s ethnicity finds him not guilty of two counts of murder.
However, the second part of the trial the civil trial had quite the opposite and those jurors found him liable and awarded the plaintiffs compensatory damages. Second case the beating of Rodney King four White officers were acquitted for excessive use of force. This jury of 12 included 10 White, one Hispanic, and one Filipina persons. The four White officers were acquitted and riots occurred because of the verdict. The verdicts of not guilty in both of the above case were not guilty. Jurors in both used jury nullification when deciding the verdicts.
The writer believes that courts should let the jurors know of this option in all cases, but the justice system should educate the jurors on the standpoint of which it is acceptable to use the process. Keeping in mind the ramifications of the verdict for both the defendant and the plaintiff. Nullification if used properly can keep the truly not guilty offenders out of the system that could affect their lives permanently. The courts do not want this to be a regular practice I think that the jurors that is a group made up of peers have the right to decide that if beyond a reasonable doubt the person is guilty or not guilty.
The justice system needs to educate the jurors selected on the laws that are being challenged, and use the power of knowledge along with all of the facts to make their informed decision. Keep the good guys from behind bars and put the bad guys behind them. To help combat the possibility of jury nullification the juror selection process should have more of a diverse panel made up of numerous diverse cultures and this be mandated to have at least one ethnic representative from each or a panel of half and half.
In conclusion this paper reviews if ethnicity influences courtroom proceedings and judicial practices. Accesses the arguments for and against ethnicity-based jury nullification. Examples of two contemporary ethnicity-based jury nullifications that were examined are O. J. Simpson case and the Rodney King case which show jury nullification at work. Last the writers position on ethnicity-based jury nullification. The argument on this subject will continue to unravel with new cases that come. The great debate will continue in regards to should the jurors be allowed to nullify or not.
The justice system will decide. References Darden, E. C. (2006,October). The Diversity Test. , 23(145), 54-55. Duane, J. J. (1996). Jury Nullification: The Top Secret Constitutional Right. Litigation, 22(4), 6-60. Linder, D. O. (1995). The Trail of O. J. Simpson. Retrieved from http://www. law2. umkc. edu Rottman, D. B. , Hansen, R. , Mott, N. , & Grimes, L. (2003). Perceptions of the courts in your community: The Influence of Experience, Race, and Ethnicity. N/a: U. S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.