A to Z blogging - Letter J: Jury Nullification

Letter J - Jury Nullification:


This post is for entertainment purposes only for the A to Z Blogging Challenging. It is in no way intended as legal advice or my legal opinion.

Is Jury Nullification Legal?

Is it morally or ethically right?

During closing argument, a good prosecutor will always remind the jury that they "Must follow the law, whether they like the law or not. They can hate the law, disapprove of the law ... but this ain't the time to quarrel with the law or try and change the law." 

If they feel strongly enough about changing the law, then after the trial, get busy writing their congressmen and do something about it. Be proactive. But there's a time and place for everything. Now is the time to listen to the judge read the jury instructions and apply them to the facts of THIS case and if the state proved this case Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, "You must Remember the Oath you Swore when you became a juror ... your oath to follow the law. Follow the law. Not only if you agree with the law, or if you like the law ... you didn't take an oath to follow the law, only if you agree that the sentence won't be too harsh. You cannot sit there and know the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but say, hmm, I sure do hate for him to have a criminal record ...  and ... that law doesn't seem fair. I'm voting not guilty. Because if you do ... guess what? You've violated your oath." If every jury did that, we would never have law and order. We wouldn't have a need for juries." That's what a good prosecutor would hammer into the minds of every juror during her closing argument.

And when the judge reads the jury instructions to the jury in a hushed courtroom. He reminds them that it is their sole duty to determine whether or not the government has met their burden? Proven their case? He tells them they must weigh the credibility of the witnesses. They have an awesome responsibility. They should not be influenced or swayed by emotions, prejudice or bias for or against anyone. They must base their decision solely on the evidence or lack thereof, presented at trial and are not permitted to consider any outside evidence or any outside knowledge of the case.


Jury Nullification ... is the power to nullify a verdict? Is the power to nullify a verdict the same as the right to?  

Jury Nullification: When a jury returns a verdict of "Not Guilty" despite being convinced the defendant is guilty of the crime charged. The jury in effect, nullifies a law that it believes is wrong, immoral or has been wrongfully applied to the defendant whose fate they have been charged with deciding.

 I remember two specific cases of jury nullification. In the first a jury acquitted a woman charged with murdering her abusive husband. The evidence clearly showed a pattern of horrific injuries sustained over the years her robust husband who lifted weights, boxed and had recently taken up martial arts. In addition to the physical abuse, sexual abuse, he tormented her verbally, and got off putting her down in front of others. He terrorized her with his new martial arts hobby. He had no criminal record and just days before his death he purchased two pistols and and several rifles, he claimed he needed for hunting.

Regrettably, self defense did not apply because the woman was not technically in fear for her life at the exact moment she chose to kill him. Her fear and panic intensified  over the years and she could no longer live with the horror and dread that any day might be her last. She armed herself with two handguns and waited until he was passed out drunk until she shot him. The photos offered into evidence combined with her mutilating injuries, medical records, doctors' testimony and throngs of witnesses who came forward on her behalf from the apartment complex and both her place of work and the decedent's had the jury in tears. There was no way that jury was going to send that petite, fragile girl to prison for the rest of her life. She'd already lived through nine years of hell. Her once quite attractive face was permanently scarred and disfigured and she walked with a limp. She was twenty-six years old, and no longer able to have children because of the abuse. The law required the jury to convict her of murder, but they found her not guilty.

The second case was an elder woman in her sixties, charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The only reason she caught the intent charge was the massive quantity she had in her home and her refusal to name the person she bought it from. Tragically, she was suffering -- dying from cancer and the pot eased her pain and nausea from the chemo. We live in a state that hasn't legalized weed even for medicinal purposes. The jury found her not guilty in less than half an hour

Do juries have the right to nullify?

There is no question that juries clearly have the power to nullify, but do they have the right to nullify?






Jury nullification occurs when a jury concludes the defendant is technically guilty, but fails to convict on the grounds that the law in question is unjust. While jury nullification is technically legal, most judges refrain from informing the jury of their inherent super power. Some judges go a step further and deny defense counsel the right to share this information with the jury
Check out this First Punitive Response to Jury Nullification, That's taking things a bit far.

Some judges flat out prohibit defense attorneys from mentioning or making reference to jury nullification. 
But check out this jury instruction, it appears to encourage jury nullification ... without actually saying the words.
This is probably a proposed jury instruction from a defense attorney, but from my reading, three or more states are close to adding it to standard jury instructions and individual judges have already permitted it on a case by case basis.

Compare & Contrast to the Florida Jury Instructions:



Once a jury returns a verdict of "not guilty"that verdict cannot be disturbed or questioned by anyone and double jeopardy prohibits them from ever being re-tried. A not guilty verdict is the end of the case. So it is easy to see that any jury can exercise their "power" of jury nullification without any recourse.

If juries have the "power" to nullify, shouldn't they be told?  Not only are they not told, some courts go so far as to tell a jury that they may not exercise jury nullification.

Jurors must learn of this power from outside sources such as the television or from lawyers or other jurors.

So what do you think?  Should jurors be told of their "power" of jury nullification?  Does the power of jury nullification make it a right? Can you think of any circumstance that may cause you to render a verdict of not guilty despite knowing that the government proved the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?

Do you support or oppose jury nullification?


Can you foresee a situation that you might return a not guilty verdict even if the government proved the defendant's guilt and you were convinced of the defendant's guilt? Please share in the comments a situation you would exercise jury nullification.

This is not offered as legal advice or my legal opinion. I'm not currently practicing law and this post is strictly for the A to Z Challenge ... entertainment purposes.



A to Z Blogging - Internet Connection Delay

Ugh - Another Problem 

Sorry everyone! I finally catch up and a serious car accident yesterday (Car struck a telephone pole (I thought it was the weather) knocked our Internet Service out for most of the evening, all night and it’s still not back on. No electricity either. I’m told we should have it back up by tonight . So I’ll post more letters tonight  and announce the mini mystery amazon gift card winner. I’m posting this short update from my phone. 

Thanks for your patience and understanding . Hope you’re all enjoying the challenge. 

There’s still not a definitive winner for the letter I $25 Amazon Gift Card mini mystery challenge. There’s one person who may take the prize sort of by default, but hey it’s an easy win. Try it out before my next letters got up this evening or tonight. 

Letters H & I -- Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card

Letters H & I

In the spirit of catching up so I can begin visiting more blogs, I'm combining two letters today.


Letter H - Holly Lisle

Holly offers so many terrific courses, there are too many for me to cover. I first learned about her when another blogger bragged about her How To Revise a Novel (HTRAN) Course. Which is a lengthy, in depth, intense course, but by the end you'll have a damned good revised novel. Holly does things very differently than any other writing coach or writing teacher I've come across. She really encourages you to tap into your imagination and creativity. If you aren't ready for one of her intense courses, check out her blog and she also offers extremely inexpensive books on Amazon. 



My two  favorite things that I learned and now use when writing every scene is her Sentence for Revision and the sentence for creating a scene when drafting. I used to do this on real note cards, but not I do it on Scrivener.

Remember the sentence by (PACTS) PACTS = Protagonist with a need vs Antagonist with a need in a unique setting with a twits.

Conflict = your Protagonist need vs Antagonist need. 
You should this sentence for every scene when writing your draft. If you don't have these elements, your scene is lacking something. You should always use the SFR sentence for revision during your revisions.

Letter I - I Have a Mystery for you -- Guess the Culprit for an Amazon Gift Card

Detective Denver was called to a theft or fraud scene. Seems one of those strip clubs or video poker clubs that pull in boatloads of cash got robbed. Apparently the driver was robbed on his way to make the nightly drop. Detective Denver interviewed the man who normally makes the drop. 
"Evening sir, I'm Detective Denver and you are --"
"Um, name's Wayne. Wayne Brook." He started to get up from the chair, but Denver motioned for him to remain sitting.
"How long have you worked at the club?"
"Seven years?"
"And it's your job to make the nightly deposit?"
"Yes sir." Wayne stood and paced, scraping his fingers through his greasy hair. "I know I should'a dun it myself. I ain't never supposed to let no one else do it. Damn. I can't lose my job. My little girl's sick. She's in the hospital."
"So what happened, tonight."
"I loaded all the cash. Was ready to go, but my damn car wouldn't start. Tried it a few times."
"Uh huh. The other fellow that works with you ... said he suggested you call Uber or a cab. Is that right?" 
He didn't look up or answer, like in another world. Rubbing the back of his neck with such force, Detective Denver figured his skin was raw, Wayne closed his eyes, took in a deep breath, opened and exhaled loudly.
"Well." The detective gave him nudge.
"Oh, Yes. Think he did. Yes he did. But we aren't allowed to put the money in anyone else's car. Against company policy. If it got stolen or something Mr. Gus ... the boss man wouldn't be insured for it. He wouldn't get his money back."
"I see. But it was okay to put it in the other guy's car -- even though he's not allowed to take it to the bank?"
Wayne fell back into his seat and stared up at the detective. "Uh yea, cuz Reid works for Gus, so his car would be covered under the insurance policy." He swiped his palm down his jeans again.
"Why didn't you just borrow Reid's car?"
"I'm the manager. Have to lock up." He fished his phone from his pocket and checked the time again.
"But earlier you said, you had to be home to take care of your sick child."
"Yea ... yea. I got confused. Look. How much longer's this gonna be. My wife needs me home to help with my daughter."
"What's wrong with your little girl?"
"Oh she has diabetes and we're on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. Gotta get one. This dialysis isn't gonna work forever and it cost a fortune."
"Sorry to hear that. Won't be much longer. Do you know of anyone who knew that your boss made large cash deposits when he did?"
"Just his wife -- I mean ex wife. Well technically they're still married. They're getting divorced. She's got a new boyfriend. Some mechanic dude. The boss's trying to hide how much money the poker machines bring in, Says he ain't about to finance a new bike shop and garage for that guy. Some ex con, just got out. Did a dime upstate. Not sure what for."
"Thank you, I'm going over to speak to Reid."
“Have a seat please Reid. I need you to run through the sequence of events for me … one more time.”
Reid slumped into an outdoor lounge chair and began patting his jean pockets then his shirt pocket as if searching for something — a pack of cigarettes maybe. “Look I’ve told you guys everything two times already. I’m exhausted. How’s repeating the story a third time gonna change anything?”
“You seem upset. Surely you want to help.”
“I do. Of course I do. But, I already told the other police everything I know. I don’t know anything about guns or cars."
"Let's just give it a go, what'd ya say?" 
He exhaled a deep sigh
“So what were you doing tonight?”
“The police brought me here — after the — the — um robbery. I got held up. I got robbed.” He twisted his wrist with the palm of the opposite hand.
“I understand how you feel, Reid. Thing is. I’ve been a police officer for a long time. In this line of business I’ve found that the more often a witness repeats a story, they sometimes remember little things they’d forgotten or little things that may not have seemed important before.”
“I don’t know. I don’t see how.”
“You might have seen something that you don’t even realize that you saw. But when we go back over it, its’s called a cognitive interview. It similar to watching a movie. Memories will jump out that you had hidden or repressed. 
He propped his cheek into his fist and gave a half hearted up and down nod.
“Start from the beginning. Were do you work?”
“I’m a bartender at Jose Mexican Cantina.”
“And Dr. Gus Neil is the owner?”
Reid shook his head. “But he never comes in. He stops by the ... the uh, the gentleman's club in the back, but never comes up front. If you know what I mean." 
“Do you normally make the bank deposits. How does that work?”
“No. I’ve never done it before. That’s why the manager had to tell me how to do it. I’ve told you guys this already. We’d just closed up. We cashed out all three video poker machines so we had a pretty good loot. Wayne… he’s my boss, had all the from bags loaded in his car. Told me to lock up. He comes running back inside. Said something’s wrong. His car won’t start. He made a few calls. I couldn’t tell what he was saying. All’s I know is he’s in this big custody battle with his wife and if he’s even one minute late she take him to court and he won’t get to see his kid.”
“Who’s idea was it for you to make the deposit?”
“I dunno. He was pacing back and forth. Making calls. Freaking out.”
"I thought he and his wife had a sick child."
"Yea, that's his kid with his second wife. She's nice. His first wife's always giving him a hard time about being late on his child support so he has to go to court to see his kid."
“Why didn’t he call a cab?”
“That’s one of our main rules. Never make a cash drop in a cab. Or Uber. But we don’t have Uber. We have Lyft. Same thing. We can’t ever make a cash deposit even if someone we know like even a wife of sister gives us a ride. We’d lose our job.” His eyebrows raised and Detective Tanner noticed how animated the witness became when demonstrating how versed he was in the rules.
Detective Denver took a swig of water from his bottle and handed an unopened one to the witness. “Could you hear any of the conversations your boss had?”
“No, Never standing close enough to make out the exact words.”
“Ok. So then what?”
“He told me how to make the deposit. Lucky for me it was my same bank so I knew how to get there. I left right away and he waited for a cab to go get his kid.”
“And you were robbed at the bank”? He pressed his lips into a a fine line.
“Yea … I mean no. Not exactly at the bank.” Reid made a Hmm sound as he cleared his throat. Pinching his bottom lip he lowered his eyes away from the detective. “I pulled over to take a piss.” He mumbled almost inaudibly.
“Where?”
“The empty building across the street from the bank. I had to go real bad.”
“You didn’t think that was maybe a dangerous idea?” The detective said, baring his teeth.
“I didn’t think anyone was gonna rob me. How’s I supposed to know that. I couldn’t have known.”
“So you got out of the car to … relieve yourself. I take it you left the money bags in the car?”
“Uh huh”
“I’s bout to get back in and I hear this car pulling up. I didn’t see no lights. Then the car pulls up on the other side of what used to be the place you order food in a drive through window. I turn and all I can see is the barrel of a gun in my face. The man, I say man because he just seemed like a man, but the person had on a ski mask and the voice was manly. He said ‘Don’t be stupid. Give me that video poker money.” I just froze”. The witness raked his hand through his hair and with an exaggerated puff blew his stringy bags from face. “How much longer’s this gonna take. I wanna help. But I’m tired, man.
“Not much longer. How far from the bar to the bank?”
“Maybe three miles. Like I said, I’m not good at judging distance.”
“Did you notice anyone following you from the bar to the bank?” 
“No, but I don’t really pay attention to other cars. I’m in my own world when I drive. Listening to my tunes.”
“Is it one straight road or do you turn left and right a few times?”
“One road and one turn. Why does that matter?”
“Easier to spot a tail, if you they follow you through lots of turns.”
“Did you stop at any red lights or stop signs?
“Yea. A couple.”
“Anything unusual happen. Did you notice anyone paying attention to you?”
“No, man. I don’t really pay attention at red lights. I’m not real observant.” Denver opened his mouth to criticize, but thought better of it. He’d never get anything out of the witness that way.
‘What kind of gun?”
“Oh, I don’t really know guns?”
“Really. Well do you know the difference between a shotgun and a handgun?”
“Yes. Definitely a handgun. He told me to hurry and I got nervous. I kept wondering how he knew I had the poker money. He said something like get the bags now and throw ‘em in the backseat. That’s when I realized the window was open. I was thinking maybe I could throw a bag and hit him in the face and grab the gun. Then he said, ‘Don’t even think about it’. He told me something else I didn’t think of earlier. ‘Hey boy, don’t miss because a Glock never misses.’”
“See, its working. You’re remembering details you didn’t earlier.”
“That’s good, huh.” His eyes widened. “I’m helping the investigation.” He licked his lips into a smile.
“That you are. Anything else?
“No. Can’t think of anything. I was just so dang scared you know. After he told he how accurate his Glock was, I was shaking. Heard him disengage that safety and I thought I was a goner. That he was gonna kill me, ya know.  
“Here we go. That’s something else you didn’t tell us in your earlier statements.”
“I guess this special interview technique is good. They do it on my favorite show, Criminal Minds. I’m just so happy I’m part of the investigation. I’m really helping.” He drummed his feet along concrete and inched closer to the detective. Their knees now almost touching. 
“You’re a big help.”
“Yea. You know that clacking sound when he released the safety. That was do or die for me. I knew I might die and I had a choice to make. My life or the money — and ain’t no amount of money worth a man’s life. Know what I mean?”
Detective Denver nodded, pat him on the knee . “Now what kind of car was it again?”
The question squeezed the earlier excitement out of Reid as if his belly’d been pricked with a pin. “Dang. I told you. I don’t know cars. Can’t tell a sports car from a — whatever car.”
“Let’s narrow it down a little. Color? Size?"
“I already said this. Medium. Sedan … that’s what they call a four door right? Black … hmm … or maybe dark navy blue. Just a car shaped like a box.”
“But you didn’t see the license plate?”
“No. None of it. Soon as I tossed the bags in the car, he backed up and peeled out.”
“Do you think your manager told anyone about you taking the money to the bank?"
“I dunno. Suppose he could’ve. Anything’s possible. But he’s a nice guy.”
"Oh, Yea ... I just remembered something else."
"Really. You did, did you? Let's hear it?
"Well I also remember hearing the rumble of a motorcycle.But it was kind of in the distance when I was throwing the bags in the car. What made me think of that was because there was a motorcycle on the side of the building when I left, but no one on it."
"You ever see it before?"
"No."
"Do you know Dr. Gus Neil's wife?"
"Uh, No sir. I know he's married, but I've never met her."
"Heard anything about her?"
"Like what?"
     "Anything?"
     "No sir?" He said rubbing his chin
Detective Denver wondered if Detective Tanner had any luck locating any more witnesses
Tanner hadn't been able to locate the wife or the alleged boyfriend.
We don't even have the boyfriend's name and the wife left on a two week cruise.

Who do you think stole the video Poker drop money?


     

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