What Judges Don't Tell Juries
- What Judges Don't Tell Juries
In a November 30, 1984 edition of The Minneapolis Star and Tribune,
an article entitled "What Judges Don't Tell Juries" stated:
"At the time of adoption of the Constitution, the jury's role
as a defense against political oppression was unquestioned in
American jurisprudence. This nation survived until the 1850's, when
prosecutions under the Fugitive Slave Act were largely unsuccessful
because juries refused to convict"
"Then judges began to erode the institution of free juries,
leading to the absurd compromise that is the current state of the
law. While our courts uniformly state juries have the power to
return a verdict of not guilty whatever the facts, they routinely
tell jurors the opposite."
"Further, the courts will not allow the defendants or their
counsel to inform the jurors of their true power. A lawyer who
made . . . Hamilton's argument would face professional discipline
and charges of contempt of court."
"By what logic should juries have the power to acquit a
defendant but no right to know about that power? The court decisions
that have suppressed the notion of jury nullification cannot resolve
"More than logic has suffered. As originally conceived, juries
were to be made a safety valve way to soften the bureaucratic
rigidity of the judicial system by introducing the common sense of
the community. If they are to function effectively as the
`conscience of the community,' jurors must be told that they have
the power and the right to say no to a prosecution in order to
achieve a greater good. To cut jurors off from this information is
to undermine one of our most important institutions."
"Perhaps the community should educate itself. Then citizens
called for jury duty could teach the judges a needed lesson in