The Shotgun Blog
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Does Sarah Palin support jury nullification?
There's now good reason to believe that GOP vice-presidential candidate, and former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, supports jury nullification.
What's jury nullification? According to the Fully Informed Jury Association: "The role of our jurors is to protect private citizens from dangerous government laws and actions. Many existing laws erode and deny the rights of the people. Jurors protect against tyranny by refusing to convict harmless people. Our country's founders planned and expected that we, the people, would exercise this power and authority to judge the law as well as the facts every time we serve as jurors. Juries are the last peaceful defense of our civil liberties."
At bottom, jury nullification is the right of the jury to render a verdict of innocent whether or not they believe the defendant in fact broke the law as it is written. They have the right, that is, to render a verdict on the law itself.
Palin was one of only three governors (New Hampshire and Washington were the other two) to issue the following proclamation:
"WHEREAS, September 5, 2007, will mark the 337th anniversary of the day when the jury, in the trial of William Penn, refused to convict him of violating England’s Conventicle Acts, despite clear evidence that he acted illegally by preaching a Quaker sermon to his congregation.
WHEREAS, by refusing to apply what they determined was an unjust law, the Penn jury not only served justice, but provided a basis for the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, religion, and peaceable assembly.
WHEREAS, September 5th, 2007, also commemorates the day when four of Penn’s jurors began nine weeks of incarceration for finding him not guilty. Their later release and exoneration established forever the English and American legal doctrine that it is the right and responsibility of the trial jury to decide on matters of law and fact.
WHEREAS, the Sixth and Seventh Amendments are included in the Bill of Rights to preserve the right to trial by jury, which in turn conveys upon the jury the responsibility to defend, with its verdict, all other individual rights enumerated or implied by the U.S. Constitution, including its Amendments.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Sarah Palin, Governor of the State of Alaska, do hereby proclaim September 5, 2007, as:
Jury Rights Day
in Alaska, in recognition of the integral role the jury, as an institution, plays in our legal system.
Dated: August 31, 2007"
Sarah Palin has just become that much cooler in my eyes. Rock on, girlfriend. Rock on.
h/t: Reason & Volokh and here's FIJA activist Frank Turney with Sarah Palin (PDF).
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Sarah is definitely not just John McCain's Trophy VP.
Posted by: John V | 2008-09-04 3:50:22 PM
This is simple-minded at best.
Juries are also very good at protecting local majorities when they violate the rights of minorities. Civil rights laws notwithstanding, juries usually would not convict Klansmen in the south. Even when they had murdered African-Americans or civil rights workers.
Posted by: Craig | 2008-09-04 5:18:04 PM
Agree, Craig, but that is the age-old argument against democracy itself also. The majority can indeed vote for unjust governments. In the end I believe jusries exist for a reason, and primarily it is to protect the people from the State.
Posted by: bcf | 2008-09-04 5:32:59 PM
You make a good point. That's exactly why some libertarians do not support jury nullification.
Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-09-04 5:39:16 PM
The jurists at OJ Simpson's criminal trial sure didn't hesitate to use it.
I am curious if an overt act of jurists defying the law would be sufficient grounds for an appeal in itself?
Or what about jurists who feel the law doesn't go far enough?
Surely this is not considered commonplace or even acceptable. If so, every single defence lawyer's closing statement would include a plea to the jury to defy the law.
Even judges don't have the power to outright defy written law(Except where they conflict with each other).
It's certainly a thought-provoking 'safety valve' for a legal system to have.
Posted by: Canadian Observer | 2008-09-04 8:17:00 PM
I have seen cases where jury nullification did not serve my view of justice (Morganthaler) yet I still approve of juries having the power to challenge what they perceive as bad law. There will be times when nullification does properly challenge a bad law and that makes nullification a good choice. It will then be up to legislators to do the job they were elected to do; enact sensible legislation.
Question-Where does judges nullification of laws come in (Supreme Cout of Canada)?
Posted by: DML | 2008-09-04 11:47:46 PM
I think it comes down to common sense, and I can't say enough about Sarah Palin. I liken her detractors to skaters who go down hard; that look of disbelief. Again, we’re seeing them fold like lawn chairs. It’s long overdue. Anyway, here's a clip from Jan & Dean. I found it apropos, better than “Barracuda.” Bet you can’t watch just once: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eX7X4FovYRA&NR=1 And how ‘bout them Dems: lost in space, or true tales from the Pork-master General: http://theseedsof9-11.com
Posted by: Peggy McGilligan | 2008-09-05 3:09:31 PM
The OJ Simpson acquittal has repeatedly been used as an example of jury nullification--and that's not an accurate comparison. Jury nullification holds that a jury--can and will--ignore the evidence because they find the law and its application 'unjust' or 'too-far-reaching.'
Nobody on that jury would advocate that double-murder prosecutions are unreasonable or excessive. Instead, they were completely intoxicated by Johnny Cochran who managed to portray OJ as 'another black man being railroaded by the Government.'
They took the evidence and ignored it not because they think that the laws regarding double-murder prosecutions are unjust or unreasonable--but because they were brainwashed by OJ's legal team to become suspicious of the police and the manner in which they collected evidence. That all lead to them finding 'reasonable doubt.'
Cochran and company hoodwinked that jury to a degree that very few have ever seen.
Posted by: J.Mecca | 2008-09-06 10:02:59 PM
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