The power of juror strongly held values and beliefs

The newspaper reports that there was a trial in Missoula, Montana where the defendant was being prosecuted for selling marijuana and charged with both afelony and misdemeanor. After the jury was told the charges, the newspaper reports a juror raised her hand and said "I’ve got a real problem with these marijuana cases." She explained that she thought was over charging for something that should be a crime. Then a couple more jurors raised their hands echoing the same thought until more jurors agreedagreed that the case should never have been brought in the first place. By the time the matter was finished being discussed by the jury panel, the prosecutors decided they better change their plans. The cut a deal to dismissthe misdemeanor charges.

While some would call this jury nullification, I see it as the refusal of people to act against their deeply held beliefs about what is right and what is not right. We know strong values will control even against a person’s own self interests. What we see here, in my view, is a public disclosure of what is usually not expressed out loud but acted out through the juror’s personal interpretation of the facts and law. What is important is that we need to learn what juror’s values are and to recognize they will not act against those values no matter what the fact s or law.

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