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Criminal Justice Essay on Jury Nullification

Jury Nullification

Jury nullification is a description of the doctrine of the constitution that allows juries to set criminal defendants free even if they committed a criminal offence. The doctrine requires juries to examine the presented case’s facts before passing their judgment. The law is invalidated by the jury if he believes that it was applied to a defendant in a wrong manner. For instance, a defendant that is facing a murder trial may claim that he murdered the victim in a self-defense circumstance (Strier, 2011). Due to lack of evidence, a jury may sympathize with the defendant and invalidate their trial and subsequently set them free.

Nevertheless, the defendant’s past criminal records can prevent them from winning the jury’s sympathy. In most proceedings, the jurors do not have the right to information that gives reasons for the nullification of the case. The American constitution gives juries the liberty to nullify cases. Any judgment that juries pass is not questionable. Nevertheless, several cases of unfortunate nullification have occurred, more so when power is misused by prosecutors.

In the contemporary society, ethnicity plays an important role in the judicial proceedings and practices in the court. Race and ethnicity are the basis of people’s prosecution. Ethnic and racial differences cause group’s segregation and favoritism (Clay, 2013). These differences cause unfair practices during courtroom proceedings. They also affect the results of cases. Shifting focus from cases to racial and ethnic differences blocks power exercise among the makers of criminal justice policies.

According to the constitution, in a criminal proceeding the jury should act as the main safeguard against the power of the government. Carmen (2000) conducted a study that revealed a high level of ethnic-based nullifications that are based on politics. Jury applies their political preferences and moral judgments instead of applying the law. Thus, the jury misuses their authority. Although the role of the jury is not nullifying the law, courtroom proceedings’ prejudice determines the final decision. As such, in jury’s nullification that is based on ethnicity, power exercise and approaches that are based on community perspectives should serve the best social interests.

The view that every Black American ought to undertake racial or ethnic-based jury nullification discriminates against the cases of the minority. Carmen (2000) note that, ethnic nullification has a deep root in the system of judicial justice. He also argues that there are many racial and ethnic victimization instances. The African American experiences highlight the treatments of differential injustice to victims as well as the entire society.

According to jury nullification’s proponents, juries may use the power vested on them to pass judgment using evidence in instances of justice insufficiencies. Similarly, it loosens judicial supremacies. Although this is not equal to nullification, it means the independence of the juror to abandon different legal definitions. This contradicts their thinking (Strier, 2011). Critical decisions that involve monetary outcomes for either the defendant or the plaintiff usually confront civil juries. As such, it is important to ensure professionalism in all jury proceedings. According to arguments that favor jury trial, jury makes judgments on the basis of the accepted masses’ values because these represent the entire public. Additionally, since the backgrounds of juries differ, personal prejudice instances are bound to be experienced.

Nevertheless, the argument of critics is that emotional and factual biases are common characteristics of the legal judgments that are made by juries. For instance, knowledge of the jury may influence the absence of evidence for disagreeable trials. There is no adequate basis for passing false verdicts that is provided for by the jury nullification power. The notion that nullification is a final ruling is based on the idea that the decision of the jury in a judicial case is a reflection of masses’ morality. On the contrary, ethnicity influences jury nullification and prosecutors do not convict offenders who face moral decadence cases.

Failing to serve the minority’s interests relates to power misuse by the jury and this has led to chaos in justice application in the entire judicial system. Judicial system’s critics argue that sex, ethnicity and class influence court proceedings and jury nullification.  Further, justice fairness is impaired by this nullification in instances where law impartiality is a major issue. Additionally, individual juries might not assume personal responsibility because the decision of the jury is usually a group pronouncement.

History reveals that the power of the ruling authorities has always constrained juries in delivering their unrestricted judgment even where this does not exist. For example, in England, the juries did not prosecute the defendants after being sentenced falsely for a crime. Despite having the necessary power to pass a verdict, the juries constrained this verdict till another ruling that was deemed suitable was passed. Although this indicates the rights of the jury’s nullification as being mercy-driven, it ensured the defendants’ justice. Nevertheless, critics argue that jury nullification can cause malicious ruling. This is not inclusive of the mandate for passing new laws.

Jury’s nullification that is based on ethnicity has been made on several instances more so in America and Europe. For instance, the American minority were affected by the increase in the drug detainees as well as severe punishments’ application for offenders during the 1990s. Drug arrests were mostly made among the black people. This challenged justice provision at that time. An illegal drugs abuse survey among drug users indicated low rates of prevalence among the population of the African Americans when compared to the whites’ population. This is different from the common belief that most drugs were abused by African Americans.

Additionally, the American Gangs War of the 1990s and 1980s was treated in the same manner (Carmen, 2000). The passed laws provided for the imprisonment for some offences that were committed by the gangs. Some members of some ethnic groups were mistreated by the police because a gang was defined inconsistently. There were also victimization instances among the Native Americans during jury’s proceedings. At the beginning of 2000, more arrests were made in the Alaskan populations on the basis of alcohol abuse. Most of those arrested were black. Critics associate violation of minorities’ rights with discrimination, more so among the African Americans. However, the arguments of proponents are that the blacks have criminality susceptibility.

In a nutshell, justice exercise for offenders has been impaired by the influence that ethnicity has on judicial practices and courtroom proceedings. Several viewpoints have been brought up which favor jury nullification. They include the ability of jury nullification to provide justice in circumstances that do not have criminal evidence. Nevertheless, the point of critics is that prejudices of the jury and their political preferences may influence such nullification. There have been cases of jury nullifications that are based on ethnicity in American and European countries. These indicate that jury nullification has the potential of causing anarchy in the modern world if it is not checked by a judicial system. Jury nullification that is based on ethnicity promotes lack of unity within the society. Therefore, no judicial system should conduct it.



Carmen, G. (2000). History of trial by jury in the Spanish legal system. Madrid: E mellen press.

Clay, S. (2013). Jury nullification: the evolution of a doctrine. New York: American Psychological Association Press.

Strier, F.  (2011). Reform Proposals: in handbook of trial consulting. London: Springer US.


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