Racial differences within the court system of the United States can create various interpretations of laws and the impartiality of such laws. Minorities within this country may believe that the criminal justice system has prejudices and may dismiss the legality of certain laws. Jury nullification is a process in which members of the jury exonerate a person of a guilty verdict although the evidence presented in the case overwhelmingly proves the person’s guilt.
People within the jury may believe the laws are not fair, do not apply to the particular case, or they may empathize with the defendant (McNamara & Burns, 2009). Some advocates of race-based jury nullification believe that using this technique helps to defend their rights and to dispute unfair government practices. Some people believe that the justice system benefits White people while oppressing the rights of minority people. This process allows these people to stand up for their rights and to voice their concerns through precise and expressive means.
Members of a jury cannot receive punishment for their decisions in a case, and a person cannot experience double jeopardy for the same or similar charges once acquitted. The proponents of this process believe this is their approach to protesting governmental authority or bias. Opponents of race-based jury nullification believe that a jury should defend the laws of the country and base their decisions on the facts of the case. These people believe juries should not consider a person’s race or express opposition of laws in this manner.
Some of these people believe that this process may allow dangerous criminals back into society with no repercussions for their actions. People who oppose race-based jury nullification believe that a person’s sentiments should not become a factor when making a decision about a case. New York v. Bernard Goetz On Saturday, December 22, 1984, a passenger on a New York subway later identified as Bernard Goetz shot and critically wounded four African American male passengers. He claimed the four youth conducted themselves in a way that convinced him the youth were planning to rob him on the subway.
Bernard Goetz was charged with four counts of attempted murder, first-degree assault, criminal possession of a weapon, and carrying a loaded and unlicensed weapon in a public place. The defense for Bernard Goetz argued that his actions were in accordance with the self-defense laws of New York. The law states an individual may use deadly force if he reasonably believes another person is committing or attempting to commit one of certain enumerated offenses, including robbery (New York Times, 1987). The jury consisted of mainly White, Manhattan citizens, six of whom had been victims of a street crime.
Bernard Goetz received acquittals on the attempted murder and assault charges. However, he received convictions with the remaining offenses. Following the shooting, victim, Darrell Cabey filed a civil lawsuit against Bernard Goetz. This jury consisted of four African Americans and two Hispanics. Attorneys for Darrell Cabey asked the jurors if they had any experiences involving discrimination because Bernard Goetz had a connection with a discriminatory act in the past. The jurors found the defendant reacted in a reckless manner, and deliberately inflicted emotional distress on Darrell Cabey.
Jury nullification is a process that permits juries to “acquit even when the facts of the case suggest they convict, and thus enables citizens to play a more active role in determining justice and what/whom should be punished” (McNamara & Burns, 2009, p. 265). The criminal and civil trials in this case demonstrate jury nullification. The white majority jury nullified the testimony and evidence presented at the criminal trial. The jury of minorities nullified the testimony at the civil trial. These powers placed upon common citizens will destroy the justice system when race and ethnicity determines the guilt or innocence of a defendant.
The United States of America v. Marion S. Barry, Jr. After months of denying rumors and accusations of his drug use, former mayor of Washington, DC, Marion S. Barry, Jr. , was caught engaging in illegal drug activity in a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sting operation. The veteran mayor’s crime was caught on video tape by federal agents. On the night of January 18, 1990, FBI agents arrested Barry and brought him before a federal magistrate on misdemeanor drug charges of buying and selling crack-cocaine. Barry’s ex-girlfriend, former model Rasheeda Moore was a cooperating government witness in the FBI undercover operation.
Moore allegedly lured the mayor to a hotel rendezvous for romance and drugs. Prior to Barry and Moore’s engagement, the FBI installed a hidden camera in the Washington, DC, hotel room. The camera provided United States attorneys and FBI agents with a real-time video feed of the events taking place in the hotel room (CBS Interactive, 1990). United States Attorneys and FBI agents watched as the mayor gave Moore money to purchase cocaine. Unbeknownst to Barry, Moore left the hotel room and purchased crack-cocaine from an undercover FBI agent standing-by at the scene.
Upon Moore’s return, Marion Barry inhaled the crack-cocaine using a smoking apparatus. Immediately after this, FBI agents burst into the hotel room to make the arrest. A United States attorney holds that the set-up was not illegal entrapment. Because Marion Barry entered the hotel room on his own volition, he chose to engage in illegal drug activity (CBS Interactive, 1990). The charges against Barry were punishable by a maximum of one year in prison. Although the mayor’s urine and blood tested positive for cocaine, he was eligible for pre-trial release on personal bond.
Barry’s attorney stated that the mayor would plead not guilty to the charges against him (CBS Interactive, 1990). Indicted on 14 charges, third term mayor of Washington, DC, Marion S. Barry, Jr. , was the defendant in a trial before United States District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. On August 10, 1990, following the trial, a jury found Barry guilty of one misdemeanor count of possession of cocaine. The jury acquitted Barry of the second possession charge and could not reach a verdict for the 12 remaining counts (Justia Company, 2011).
Because jurors had more than enough evidence to find the mayor guilty of the charges for which he stood conviction, this case is a prime example of racially motivated jury nullification. Various witnesses testified to Barry’s drug use before the federal grand jury, and the FBI provided the jury with footage of the illegal activity. The jurors did not adhere to the United States Constitution’s standard of impartiality (Justia Company, 2011). Race should not be a factor at any time during a criminal proceeding. A person should receive a punishment based upon his or her actions, not his or her race.
Race-based jury nullification creates inequality within the criminal justice system and does not allow justice to prevail. Discrimination can occur in various forms, and this process advocates for the judgment of people on race alone. People can create change within the legal or criminal justice system, but should do so through other means. The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson This is the most publicized and infamous criminal trial of the century; which began in January 29, 1995 and ended October 3, 1995. The former American football star and actor, O. J.
Simpson, was the main suspect in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson (O. J. ‘s ex-wife) and her male friend Ronald L. Goldman. On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman are stabbed to death (Linder, 2011). Their bodies were found in the front courtyard of the Nicole’s condominium in Brentwood, CA. June 13, 1994, O. J. Simpson is notified of the murders, while on a business trip in Chicago (Linder, 2011). He returns to Los Angeles, is temporarily handcuffed, and taken in for questioning. Robert Shapiro is contacted on Simpson’s behalf and asked to become his defense counsel (Linder, 2011).
On June 17, 1994, about to surrender himself for murder charges, Simpson slipped out of Robert Kardashian’s home (Linder, 2011). Once Mr. Simpson did not surrender himself as planned, an APB was issued. O. J. ‘s white Ford Bronco was spotted traveling down the highway, driven by his friend A. C. Cowlings. A low-speed chase down the interstate ensued and was telecast live for all of America (NNBD tracking the entire world, 2011). When he returns to his home and after he contacts his mother, Simpson is taken into custody. Simpson hired a high-profile defense team initially led by Robert Shapiro and successively led by Johnnie Cochran.
Mr. Simpson’s trial was a huge media fiasco, lasting eight months and reported at length daily (NNBD tracking the entire world, 2011). Americans were familiarized with a parade of characters, including Lance Ito, the judge of uncertain capability; Kato Kaelin, Simpson’s lethargic boarder; and Johnnie Cochran, his polished defense lawyer (NNBD tracking the entire world, 2011). The pivotal point of Simpson’s defense occurred when prosecutors asked Simpson to try on the killer’s gloves (NNBD tracking the entire world, 2011).
He couldn’t squeeze his hand inside; and it was Johnny Cochran who legendarily retorted, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” (NNBD tracking the entire world, 2011). Curiously, in the course of their “exploration”, detectives had obtained samples of Simpson’s and the victims’ blood (NNBD tracking the entire world, 2011). This is, to say the least, not proper police procedure (NNBD tracking the entire world, 2011). When questioned on the witness stand whether he’d planted any evidence to frame Simpson, LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman beseeched his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself (NNBD tracking the entire world, 2011).
Simpson was acquitted*. *Later, both the Brown and Goldman families sued Simpson for damages in a civil trial. On February 6, 1997, a jury unanimously found there was sufficient evidence to hold Simpson liable for damages in the wrongful death of Goldman and battery of Brown. It is clear that this case is a great example of race-based jury nullification because this trial received a great deal of publicity. Emotions about this case were mixed, but as the trial developed and evidence was presented on both sides; it appeared that Mr. Simpson was being framed. There was not much question on the minds of many about whether Mr.
Simpson was involved in these murders, but after evidence tampering and Mr. Fuhrman pleading the fifth, black people everywhere became outraged at these discriminating acts. Black people felt that white people in general and especially the white officers of the LAPD wanted to convict Mr. Simpson whether they had enough or correct evidence. So as retaliation, Black people wanted justice to ring loud and clear…. Much of the prosecution’s evidence should have been inadmissible due to tampering… and therefore Mr. Simpson would walk, whether he was guilty or not.
People on both sides of this issue lost sight of what the true intents of the legal process was about… things go too technical and people made terrible mistakes, and the truth about those mistakes came out. Instead of properly handling the case on the prosecuting side, the victim’s families suffered again. References Berger, J. (1987). Analysis; Goetz Case: Commentary on Nature of Urban Life. New York Times. Retrieved from: www. nytimes. com/1987/06/18/nyregion/analysis-goetz-case CBS Interactive. (1990).
CBS Evening News, January 19, 1990. Retrieved from: http://w ww. youtube. com/watch?v=iVncpaZWxZE Justia Company. (2011). 961 F. 2d 260: United States of America v. Marion S. Barry, Jr. , Appellant. Retrieved from: http://law. justia. com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F 961/260/209010/ Linder, D. O. (2011). Famous Trials. Retrieved June 26, 2011, from The O. J. Simpson Trial : http://law2. umkc. edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/simpson/simpson. htm McNamara, R. H. & Burns, R. (2009). Multiculturalism in the Criminal Justice System. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill NNBD tracking the entire world. (2011). Retrieved June 26, 2011, from O. J. Simpson: http://www. nndb. com/people/390/000022324/.