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Regarding the O.J. Simpson trial, an (African American) commentator said something like, "O.J. was guilty of murder, but it also appeared that he was being framed (by e.g. Mark Fuhrman), and therefore the jury voted to acquit, rather than support a wrongfully obtained conviction."

Suppose this had been an opinion expressed (after the fact) by one or more jurors, rather than a "third" party. Would this be a form of "jury nullification"? Would this be grounds for a mistrial on the theory that no "reasonable" jury would make such a finding?

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  • the OJ case is a california one, so california rules apply – Trish Mar 17 at 15:35
  • I'm not sure where to find a reference, but AFAIK under the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution, a jury verdict of "not guilty" cannot be overturned, not even if was a verdict that "no reasonable jury" could have reached. It is possible for a verdict of "guilty" to be set aside on those same grounds, but it doesn't work the other way around. The only exception I know is if it can be shown that the jury was actually bribed. – Nate Eldredge Mar 17 at 15:42
  • @NateEldredge: Exactly. The state is not allowed to try the same person twice for the same crime. Since a successful appeal will declare a mistrial or overturn the verdict, this means that an appeal of Not Guilty will result in the State essentially asking for a second trial. As the right bars the state from second trials, a mistrial is essentially the defendant waiving his right and letting the state hold a trial a second time (the person protected by the right may always waive it and let the person who has no right exercise that power.) – hszmv Mar 17 at 16:12
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So I'm fascinated with the OJ trial and I've read a ton about it. I'll try to answer your question both accepting your premise as true, and then also going into what actually happened.

First of all, jury nullification cannot be overturned in the US. The double jeopardy clause forbids it. This is such a powerful tool, in fact, that there are strict rules that prevent defense lawyers from mentioning or even hinting at jury nullification, in front of the jury, in almost all circumstances.

It doesn't mean D is safe from all legal liability. OJ, obviously, was found liable in the civil trial. Sometimes other jurisdictions can prosecute. For example, after the officers in the Rodney King beating were acquitted in state court, the federal government got them for violating federal hate crime statutes.

Second, looking at your premise. If jurors think D is guilty, but also being framed, that's not necessarily jury nullification. Remember, a criminal defendant must be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That means that 'probably guilty' means 'not guilty.'

That said, there may be times when a jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of a defendant's guilt, but is so disgusted by the police tactics used in the case that they acquit. This would be jury nullification.

What actually happened in the OJ case: Mark Fuhrman perjured himself on the stand. He lied and said he'd never said the N word, and the defense produced tapes of him saying it a ton. The defense recalled him to the stand. Because perjury is a serious crime, this time he came in with his own defense lawyer, and did nothing but take the fifth on the stand. In a genius move, OJ's defense team asked him whether he planted any evidence in the OJ case. He didn't deny it, instead he took the fifth (again, as he was doing to every question). This was enough to sow reasonable doubt about OJ's guilt based on the evidence in that trial (there's obviously no actual doubt, in real life, that he's guilty). So, what actually happened wasn't jury nullification.

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    You skipped part of the question, about "mistrial", which I think deserves a legal answer. – user6726 Mar 17 at 16:31
  • It should be pointed out that of the jurors who have talked about the OJ case, the quick verdict was in response to a lot of incidents that were unrelated to the crime. Fuhrman was the big testimony that lead to doubt of the police's handling of the case, but the jurors had also been subjected to the longest criminal trial in U.S. history and the 8 months of sequestration in addition to both the prosection and defense harrasment in an attempt to get jurors they felt would not be favorable to them kicked, most just wanted to be done with it. Saying "no" is always easier than saying "Yes". – hszmv Mar 17 at 16:36
  • @user6726: Mistrials following a verdict can only be granted through appeal. Not even Judge Ito, who presided over the case, can declare it once it is given to the jury. Since double jeopardy bars the Prosecution from initiating appeals, only OJ could start the process to declare a mistrial, and why would he do something like that? – hszmv Mar 17 at 16:38
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    This should be part of the answer. – user6726 Mar 17 at 16:40
  • @user6726 I wrote that jury nullification is final. – user36183 Mar 17 at 21:48
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While @Colin Losey has a lengthy and basically correct answer, one get reach a conclusion much more quickly.

Under U.S. law, in a criminal case, a jury verdict of acquittal cannot be appealed or overruled for any reason other than improper outside interference with the jurors (e.g. bribery or extortion directed at jurors to get them to acquit).

This is true even if the jury verdict of acquittal was based upon reasoning directly contrary to the law as they were instructed, and even if the jury verdict of acquittal was entered despite the jurors belief that the defendant was factually and legally guilty.

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  • I agree, this is fair – user36183 Mar 18 at 18:59

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