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Jury Nullification At Work

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How many times we have heard, mostly from libertarians, that juries should be free to disregard what they view as an unjust law, or even merely an over-reaching prosecution, to acquit a defendant even if, on the facts presented and the law given by the judge, the argument for a guilty verdict is emphatic?

The Internet is livid that a policeman was acquitted in the shooting death of Philando Castile.  The NYT has this (relatively restrained) story.

I cannot be sure, as no one outside the jury room can be sure, of the reason for this acquittal, which seems as wrong to me as it does to almost everyone commenting on it. From what I can see, even if the officer responded in panic and emotionally-charged over-reaction, he's still guilty of manslaughter.  I saw many cases over my years as a prosecutor, and the only "justification" I can discern for the outcome here is that the jury thought a police officer, always subject to mortal danger even in a "routine" traffic stop, should not be convicted no matter what.  This view may be seen by some as plausible or even compelling.  It is not the law.

This is the reason I've always argued that jurors must put aside personal views, no matter how strongly held, and follow the law, no matter how wrongheaded they think it to be. The alternative is scattershot vigilantism, the very thing civilization was developed to avoid.

Nullification fans, do you like your handiwork?

1 Comment

It is very hard to convict a cop. That seems to be the take-away.

I share your vigorous disagreement with the verdict.

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