The judicial system was established to create harmony in the society by protecting the rights of each and every citizen. Laws were set up to ensure that the country can run effectively. The system has been constantly modified and new systems have been put in place to ensure that the laws are effective. Both the jurors and judges play vital roles in ensuring that laws are properly implemented.
Jury nullification has been the issue of mass debate for a long time. Jury nullification is when the jury sets a defendant free despite the fact that it believes that the defendant is guilty. This paper will focus on how ethnicity affects courtroom proceedings and judicial practices. It will examine the pros and cons of jury nullification before a valid conclusion on its effectiveness is made.
Does ethnicity influence court proceedings?
Based on more than a handful of court cases it is quite evident that ethnicity has influenced court proceedings. The only difference is that the scope of influence has been decreasing over the years. Despite the fact that racial dynamics have changed significantly the element of race when it comes to judicial practices is still evident. It determines several factors and the end result is a mix of racially discriminatory outcomes (Jonakait, 2003).
As long as society exists, members will develop different opinions and views about certain aspects. People tend to stereotype and this is a key contributor to the fact that ethnicity is still the basis through which some cases are determined. Ethnicity has, however, influenced verdicts in a positive and negative way (McNamara & Burns, 2009).
Arguments for and against ethnicity based jury nullification
Most people who support ethnicity based jury nullification believe that the jurors should exercise their constitutional rights and use their powers to advocate against government tyranny. This is through delivering a verdict of not guilty so as to communicate to the government that the laws that they have put in place are discriminatory and should not be enforced. The main role of the jury is to protect against unjust prosecutions. Through making a decision contrary to corrupt laws they are able to protect citizens who are on the verge of being wrongly prosecuted or those who have been arrested unfairly. This is another way that they are able to protect citizens against government dictatorship.
Jury nullification can help in bringing change to how minorities are handled by the judicial system. Once cases are nullified by jurors it will send a clear message that arrests or wrongful prosecutions based on gender stereotypes will not be tolerated in the society. This will in turn reduce the number of minorities being prosecuted unfairly.
It can also be used to reduce the number of incarcerations in the county. If it is done strategically the large number of people in prisons will be reduced significantly. Strategic jury nullification can be done in a number of ways such as letting victims of minor offences go free. These include victims in possession or caught selling small amounts of drugs to other adults.
The faction that is strongly opposed to ethnicity based jury nullification has also voiced their opinions and has brought to the table valid points that are worth mentioning. They believe that jury nullification is a flaw to the judicial system and is meant to cause more harm than good. By practicing or supporting ethnicity based jury nullification the system will let guilty and dangerous people back on the streets. The system also sends a wrong message to the society. The citizens may develop the mentality that it is possible to avoid the law and this will only lead to increased crime and will make many citizens question the system that has been put in place.
They believe that laws are very delicate because they have been made by elected legislators. This means that their implementation should not be handled lightly. Jurors who have been randomly selected from the population should not be given the power to ignore them when they want. There are no reasons that should be valid enough for any law to be neglected. Once people break laws, they should pay for their mistakes regardless of their ethnicity or any other factor.
They believe that the system has worked well since it was first established. They do not see the need to complicate an already productive system with new elements that undermine its core principles. The system should not be tampered with and should be left to run as it is.
Jury nullification is highly dependent on the jurors chosen. This means that the outcome of the cases will have different results. This inconsistency will leave a huge gap and will not be fair to many people. It does not make sense for two defendants with almost the same cases to be given different verdicts on the same crime due to the preferences of the juries (Conrad, 1998).
Contemporary examples of ethnicity based jury nullification
In the OJ Simpson trial the jury set free an African American defendant despite the fact that the evidence that he committed the crime was rock solid. The jury was composed of African Americans who were persuaded that the police did not act fairly and the arrest was motivated by racism. This played a big role in influencing their decision.
In 1991, Yankel Rosenbaum was the victim of an attack. He was stabbed by a black mob that was angered by the fact that a black young man was killed by a religious Jewish motorcade. He was able to identify one of the perpetuators Lemrick Nelson for committing the crime. The jury which had many African Americans did not convict him despite the solid evidence that was presented.
Ethnicity based jury nullification should not be allowed in the judicial system. It is a flaw to the system and has been used to do more harm than good. The system can be manipulated and influenced by multiple factors such as the race of the jurors. Research has shown that a juror can deliver a not guilty verdict based solely on the race of the defendant rather than on the evidence presented (Koski, 2003).
It also allows severe criminals to roam free in the society hence making laws less effective. As much as jurors are expected to have a conscience, they should make decisions based on the guidelines of the law. They should think about the message that they will send to the public. Telling the public that they can get away with breaking the law will make the citizens to judge the system and in turn will make them to question what is right and what is wrong. If enough evidence is presented to the jury then they should without a doubt make a valid decision based on what they have.
Conrad, C. S. (1998). Jury nullification: the evolution of a doctrine. Durham, N.C: Carolina Academic Press.
Jonakait, R. N. (2003). The American jury system. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Koski, D. D. (2003). The jury trial in criminal justice. Durham, N.C: Carolina Academic Press.
McNamara, R. H., & Burns, R. G. (2009). Multiculturalism in the criminal justice system. New York: McGraw-Hill.