Quote File: Can juries nullify laws?

We will constantly update this quote file as we find relevant new quotes.

"The law itself is on trial quite as much as the cause which is to be decided." -- Harlan F. Stone, 12th Chief Justice U.S. Supreme Court, Source: US Supreme Court 1941

"The Jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy." -- John Jay, (1745-1829) first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

"We recognize, as appellants urge, the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by the judge, and contrary to the evidence. This is a power that must exist as long as we adhere to the general verdict in criminal cases, for the courts cannot search the minds of the jurors to find the basis upon which they judge. If the jury feels that the law under which the defendant is accused, is unjust, or that exigent circumstances justified the actions of the accused, or for any reason which appeals to their logic of passion, the jury has the power to acquit, and the courts must abide by that decision." -- U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Maryland, Source: US vs Moylan, 417 F 2d 1002, 1006 (1969)"But, sir, the people themselves have it in their power effectually to resist usurpation, without being driven to an appeal of arms. An act of usurpation is not obligatory; it is not law; and any man may be justified in his resistance. Let him be considered as a criminal by the general government, yet only his fellow-citizens can convict him; they are his jury, and if they pronounce him innocent, not all the powers of Congress can hurt him; and innocent they certainly will pronounce him, if the supposed law he resisted was an act of usurpation." -- Theophilus Parsons (1750-1813), (Source: in the Massachusetts Convention on the ratification of the Constitution, January 23, 1788, in _Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution,_Jonathan Elliot, ed., v.2 p.94 (Philadelphia, 1836))

"The power of nullification plays an important role in the criminal justice system. ... Because an accused criminal is restricted in the defenses he or she can raise, the law recognizes only certain defenses and justification, and correspondingly, limited evidence. The jury’s power to nullify provides an accommodation between the rigidity of the law and the need to hear and respond to positions that do not fit legal pigeonholes, such as claims of spousal abuse before the battered-spouse syndrome received acceptance. Jury nullification permits the jury to respond to a position that does not have the status of a legally recognized defense. The power to nullify guarantees that the jury is free to speak as the conscience of the community. " -- Anne Bowen Poulin, Professor of Law, Villanova School of Law, (Source: Article: The Jury: The Criminal Justice System’s Different Voice, 62 U. CIN. L. REV. 1377, 1400 (1994))

"It is clear in our criminal justice system that the jury has the power to nullify -- that is, the power to acquit or to convict on reduced charges despite overwhelming evidence against the defendant. ... In a criminal trial, the court cannot direct a verdict of guilty, no matter how strong the evidence. In addition, if the jury acquits, double jeopardy bars the prosecution from appealing the verdict or seeking retrial. Similarly, if the jury convicts the defendant of a less serious offense than the one charged, the prosecution cannot again try the defendant on the more serious charge. This result occurs regardless of whether the jury consciously rejects the law, embraces a merciful attitude, or is simply confused concerning the law or facts. Thus, nullification -- with or without authority, intended or not -- is part of our system." -- Anne Bowen Poulin, Professor of Law, Villanova School of Law, (Source: Article: The Jury: The Criminal Justice System’s Different Voice, 62 U. CIN. L. REV. 1377, 1399 (1994).)