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Jury Nullification - History And Development, Legislative Efforts, Further Readings

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A sanctioned doctrine of trial proceedings wherein members of a jury disregard either the evidence presented or the instructions of the judge in order to reach a verdict based upon their own consciences. It espouses the concept that jurors should be the judges of both law and fact.

The traditional approach in U.S. court systems is for jurors to be the "triers of fact," while the judge is considered the interpreter of law and the one who will instruct the jury on the applicable law. Jury nullification occurs when a jury substitutes its own interpretation of the law and/or disregards the law entirely in reaching a verdict. The most widely accepted understanding of jury nullification by the courts is one that acknowledges the power but not the right of a juror or jury to nullify the law. Jury nullification is most often, although rarely, exercised in criminal trials but technically is applicable to civil trials as well, where it is subject to civil procedural remedies such as the JUDGMENT NOTWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT.

In criminal cases, however, the FIFTH AMENDMENT to the U.S. Constitution makes final a jury trial that results in an acquittal, and it guarantees freedom from DOUBLE JEOPARDY. This gives juries an inherent power to follow their own consciences in reaching a verdict, notwithstanding jury instructions or charges to the contrary.

CROSS-REFERENCES

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