Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Douglas D. Koski
The American criminal trial system rests in part on the premise that juries find the facts, after which they apply the law given them by the trial judge. If the accused is factually guilty under the legal instructions given them by the judge, the jury should—but need not—render a verdict of “guilty.” On the other hand, if the facts do not prove the defendant guilty (beyond a reasonable doubt), the jury must acquit—that is, render a verdict of “not guilty.” At its most general level, jury nullification occurs whenever a jury acquits where they believe the defendant is guilty. In such a case, it may be concluded that the jury exercised its right to “nullify”—to return a verdict of “not guilty” notwithstanding its belief in the defendant's factual guilt. Several questions surround this doctrine of nullification, each of which is taken up in the sections to follow. First, why would ...