Jury Nullification – a jury’s knowing and deliberate refusal to apply the law, generally because the law itself is contrary to the jury’s sense of justice, morality, or fairness

jury nullification:

1. A jury’s knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury’s sense of justice, morality, or fairness. [1]

     The following three-part video provides in-depth insight into jury nullification:

Ron Paul presents
Power to the Jury” on At Issue:

Part 1 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Part 3 of 3:

Historical Application of Jury Nullification
Affecting the Law Today:

     The tradition of jury nullification in the United States has its roots in the British legal system, specifically in a 1670 English case where Quakers were acquitted by a jury of violating a law which only permitted religious assemblies under the Church of England.

     In 1735 a journalist in the colony of New York was acquitted by a jury who nullified a law making it a crime to criticize public officials.

     Later, colonial juries nullified the Navigation Acts which would have forced all trade with the colonies to pass through England for taxation. [2]

     Just prior to the Civil War northern juries sometimes refused to convict for violations of the Fugitive Slave Act because jurors felt the laws to be unjust. In 1851, 24 people were indicted for helping a fugitive escape from a jail in Syracuse, New York. The first four trials of the group resulted in three acquittals and one conviction, and the government dropped the remaining charges. Likewise, after a crowd broke into a Boston courtroom and rescued Anthony Burns, a slave, the grand jury indicted three of those involved, but after an acquittal and several hung juries, the government dropped the charges. [3]

     During Prohibition, juries often nullified alcohol control laws, [4] possibly as often as 60% of the time because of disagreements with the justice of the law.  [5]  This resistance is considered to have contributed to the adoption of the Twenty-first amendment repealing the Eighteenth amendment which established Prohibition. [6]


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is pertinent to people everywhere, and is being utilized in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Goodloe, Justice William (April 10, 2009). “Empowering the Jury as the Fourth Branch of Government”. Essays & Editorials. Fully Informed Jury Association. Retrieved 2013-06-28.

[3]: Steven E. Barkan (Oct 1983), Jury Nullification in Political Trials, 31 (1), Social Problems, pp. 28–44

[4]: Doug Linder (2001), Jury Nullification, UMKC

[5]: Conrad on Jury Duty, archived from the original on 2011-08-07

[6]: “Know About Jury Nullification”. fordlawokc. Retrieved 13 June 2016.


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