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It appears that jurors are not allowed to be told that they can ignore the law and thus use their right of jury nullification.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification#Canada

The contrary principle contended for by Mr. Manning, that a jury may be encouraged to ignore a law it does not like, could lead to gross inequities. One accused could be convicted by a jury who supported the existing law, while another person indicted for the same offence could be acquitted by a jury who, with reformist zeal, wished to express disapproval of the same law.

But recognizing this reality is a far cry from suggesting that counsel may encourage a jury to ignore a law they do not support or to tell a jury that it has a right to do so.

Since they're apparently still allowed to use this right, only not be explicitly instructed in court that they can use it, doesn't it produce the very problem mentioned above by Mr. Manning? I.e., in any particular trial one juror may have prior knowledge of the right of nullification, in which case the jury may use it; while all other juries will carry out their obligation ignorant of it.

  • 1
    One way juries can find out is by vocal advocates providing information on the courthouse steps. Such advocates can find themselves indicted on federal jury tampering charges like this guy: cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/… – jqning May 31 '15 at 3:41
  • There are lots of ways people can learn about it, which makes this too broad. – curiousdannii Jun 3 '15 at 6:21
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Jurors don't have a "right" to jury nullification per-se. The "right" of jury nullification is really just a logical consequence of other rights that the jury and the defendant have

The American jury draws its power of nullification from its right to render a general verdict in criminal trials, the inability of criminal courts to direct a verdict no matter how strong the evidence, the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy Clause, which prohibits the appeal of an acquittal,[2] and the fact that jurors can never be punished for the verdict they return.

In fact, the court doesn't want juries to nullify, because that undermines the rule of law, and they might penalize lawyers tho try to argue for nullification

The 1895 decision in Sparf v. U.S.,[24] written by Justice John Marshall Harlan held that a trial judge has no responsibility to inform the jury of the right to nullify laws. It was a 5-4 decision. This decision, often cited, has led to a common practice by United States judges to penalize anyone who attempts to present legal argument to jurors and to declare a mistrial if such argument has been presented to them. In some states, jurors are likely to be struck from the panel during voir dire if they will not agree to accept as correct the rulings and instructions of the law as provided by the judge.[25]

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification_in_the_United_States


As far as how would juror's know about jury nullification, they could have read about the process before being selected for jury duty. Some Juries might also rule contrary to their instructions without actually having heard about jury nullification because they have some sort of sympathy with the defendant.

4

This is an interesting corner question that illuminates much larger and fundamental facts about law and government:

In court the law is whatever the judge says it is. (And if you are subject to the court and disagree with the judge's assertion of the law then your recourses are appeals to higher courts, attempts to have the law changed or clarified, and/or attempting to remove the judge from his seat.) It's not surprising that courts have a negative view of anything that undermines their authority and power. Just as it's unlikely that the government that creates the laws will go to any lengths to undermine them, e.g., by legally requiring juries be informed of their innate power of nullification.

Conflicts of interest like these are what motivate the study and learning of civics. Historically, at least in the United States, the necessity of having citizenry who are fully aware of their civic rights and duties has been perhaps the purest argument in favor of public education. And since some people think the education system isn't quite meeting its purpose, there are advocacy groups like the Fully Informed Jury Association, which addresses this particular issue.

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"Jury nullification" is normally practiced by individual jurors, who know about it. Of course, if only one person knows, s/he could educate the whole group of 12.

Jury nullification is one of those kinds of things in life where, "if you have to ask, it means that you can't do it." It is barely allowed under U.S. common law, which is derived from English common law, but is kind of a "dirty little secret" that is normally kept from the "masses."

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