Jury nullification. Mandatory sentence.
In at least one country, I would not be permitted to speak to you of those two terms should you happen to be serving on a jury.
See, the government thought it wiser to keep that information away from a jury hearing a trial in a criminal case. Some jurors might want to take the law into their own hands, so to speak.
That’s what jury nullification actually is. A jury has the power to “nullify” a law it does not want to follow. Understand that? If you feel the law would be unjust, you can simply decide not to apply the law.
Can anyone spell anarchy? That’s what would happen if every jury sworn in to uphold the law took it upon itself to disregard it. But, I’m not talking about every case. Just the exceptional one where 12 people agree that application of the law would cause more harm than good.
Kinda goes along with mandatory sentences. Defense lawyers in this same country are not permitted to tell a jury that its verdict will lead to mandatory outcomes, no matter what a jury might have been lead to believe. Studies show that most juries believe defendants usually end up getting probation or some “light” sentence. But state legislators in this country wanted to insure no “lenient” judge could get away with not “sending someone away” no matter what the circumstances for certain offenses.
A lot of “mandatory” sentences have to do with crimes against victims of a certain age. Do you know if you strike a child of a certain age, the law mandates that you serve at least one year in jail, no matter what? Unless a prosecutor agrees to “demandatorize” a sentence, a babysitter 18 or older slapping a child of a certain age must serve 365 days in jail upon conviction, at least in the part of the country I’m talking about.
A young man who is led to believe the young female he spent the night with was over a certain age, faces a similar mandatory sentence. It’s called statutory rape, no matter what lies the person under 14 offered, or the lack of intent to commit any crime when he had consensual sex.
Most may say the sombitch deserves it. Unless it is a member of their family, a close friend, or, God forbid, themselves.
Or got involved with drugs and had on your possession an amount that presupposes possession with the intent to deliver, which calls for, you guessed it, a mandatory sentence no matter what the circumstances.
I was shocked when I learned a person who simply possessed a certain amount of marijuana could be charged with a felony for selling dope. People I knew in my teens often purchased an ounce or more. If they’d put the grass in small zip lock bags for later use and or convenience, the packaging of the marijuana itself could lead to rebuttable presumption it was for the “intent to deliver.”
Well, a jury could disregard the law if it saw fit.
But I was never allowed to tell a jury in Philadelphia that it had such power. Not permitted to even mention mandatory sentence or I’d face contempt charges from a judge. Sentencing is not in the “province” of the jury, only guilt or innocence, is what a judge would instruct me after my imprisonment, monetary fine, or both.
Could not tell a jury in America that landmark cases such as those involving William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, or John Peter Zenger, a New York printer whose case stood for both freedom of the press and truth as a defense against libel, were kept from imprisonment because a jury saw fit to disregard the law each brave man had so clearly broken. They were found “Not Guilty,” despite the law. Some might say “in spite” of the law.
A dream I had last night inspired me to whisper this piece of advice to you should you ever serve on a jury. Go ahead. Disregard the law if you, in all “good consciousness” feel it’s the right thing to do.
It really is the American Way no matter what my government won’t allow me to tell you.