Apr 29, 2010

Judges lie about Jury Nullification

From a superb law review article on jury nullification (pdf).
The truth about jury nullification has long been hidden from most juries, but only recently has this judicial denial turned into outright deception. 242 In 1997, the Seventh Division of California’s Second Appellate District upheld a judge’s threatening of jurors with removal when the jury seemed poised to bring in a verdict contrary to the law.

The case was a felony-murder prosecution involving a robbery. Concerned that the defendant had not committed the physical murder, the jury asked the court if it could return a verdict finding the defendant guilty of second degree murder and robbery.

The court instructed the jury that if there was a murder committed during the robbery, the verdict must be for first degree murder according to the felony murder rule. The court then went on to lecture the jurors, threatening them with removal if they failed to follow the law. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s impromptu instruction as “direct, accurate, and easily understood.” The dissent, however, criticized the instruction for suggesting that the jurors would be subject to sanctions if they did not follow the court’s instructions as to the law. Continuing the trend of threatening jurors, California upheld similar threats made even before the jury was impaneled in 2002

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