Friday, September 05, 2008

More on jury rights

It's easy to see why people are misinformed about jury rights. Judges instruct juries very carefully, avoiding mention of such practices as jury nullification. People passing out pamphlets to would-be jurors are arrested and charged with jury tampering. TV, books, and movies show juries following these orders, but having the tough decision as to whether the evidence is strong enough. And, of course, we've tried to develop such a sense of deference to authority, no one wants to stick their neck out in the courtroom.

Judges and lawyers alike hate jury nullification, because it's a wild card. They don't like juries to do anything like declare a law unjust. They want a jury to weigh the evidence and decide whether they believe the law was broken by the defendant, whether they believe the law is just or unjust.

Other than just the evasion of the subject of jury nullification, judges often choose which evidence juries may or may not hear, as well as which arguments will be allowed. For example, gun cases aren't generally argued on a Second Amendment basis, mostly because judges get squeamish about juries deciding the Constitutionality of a law.

Juror selection, too, involves attempts to avoid jury nullification. Someone well-informed of their rights as a juror is generally not chosen, because they'll tell other jurors. If a jury knows their rights, they might exercise them.

As with any right, a right you don't know is a right you don't exercise. And a right unexercised is lost. Read up on your rights sometime.

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