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Jury Nullification | 05 Nov 2013

-Moral Mondays and Jury Nullification


Jury BoxFIJA does not advocate for or against any case in progress, but we do track cases in which jury nullification may play a role.

In this opinion piece for the News and Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, John T. “Jack” Hall compares the cases of the Moral Monday protestors to that of John Peter Zenger, whose jury protected him from criminal penalty for his criticism of the royal governor of the New York colony at the time.
Moral Mondays and jury nullification

At the jury trial in 1734, Zenger’s lawyer Andrew Hamilton, a famous criminal defense attorney, argued that no one should be punished for speaking critically of the government when that criticism was both truthful and fairly presented. The prosecuting attorney argued that the truth was irrelevant in Zenger’s case and that Hamilton’s legal stipulation that Zenger had printed the challenged comments was proof of guilt.

Under the interpretation of the laws of sedition of the 1700s, it was clear that Zenger had violated the British law. However, after very brief deliberation, the jury found him not guilty! The power of a jury, the finders of ultimate fact or “truth” in a criminal case, to ignore the law and render a verdict contrary to the expected dictates of the written statute is known today as “jury nullification.”

Criminal conviction of the Moral Monday folks seems harsh. The resolution of the prosecution of the Moral Monday protesters might usefully involve the concept of “jury nullification.” Let the government know how much the public is not inclined to convict those who truthfully and fairly criticize our lawmakers

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