Jury nullification is the option to vote Not Guilty if a juror believes that a law is immoral or wrongly applied to a defendant, even if they believe the law has technically been broken. Jurors have historically used nullification to send messages about unjust laws or harassing and abusive prosecutions.
Obviously, judges and prosecutors often object to individuals informing jurors of their right to conscientiously acquit and have even attempted to prosecute individuals for jury tampering. But the 1st Amendment has prevailed. In terms of motorcycle club culture, jurors have a right to know that they have the power to nullify the often unjust and arguably unconstitutional applications of law or unethical prosecutorial behavior or abuse.
Jury Nullification Is A Constitutional Right and a Moral Necessity
The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to generally informing jurors that:
“they have the legal authority and the ethical duty to consult their consciences and to render a just verdict, even if it requires setting aside the law and voting Not Guilty when strictly enforcing the law would be unjust.” FIJA argues:
“Jury nullification is decentralization of political power. It is the people’s most important veto in our constitutional system. The jury vote is the only time the people ever vote on the application of a real law in real life. All other votes are for hypotheticals.”
It is important that jurors understand that they cannot be punished for their verdicts. Jurors also have the right to deliver a general verdict and are not required to explain a reason for their verdict, says FIJA.
Recently federal courts have confirmed the right to inform jurors about jury nullification against prosecution claims of jury tampering. As long as no attempt is explicitly made to influence the outcome of a specific case, “Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the question of whether the First Amendment protects their message.” (See FIJA v. Denver, Civil Action No. 15-cv-1775-WJM-MJW, IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO, ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION, filed 8/25/2015)
Jury Nullification Is Used To Oppose Immoral Public Policies
Juries has exercised the power of nullification throughout America’s history, particularly at times when government policy is unpopular or deemed immoral. Juries have historically exercised the power to free those being convicted under laws deemed antithetical to freedom.
According to the University of Missouri-Kansas City,
“In the early 1800s, nullification was practiced in cases brought under the Alien and Sedition Act. In the mid 1800s, northern juries practiced nullification in prosecutions brought against individuals accused of harboring slaves in violation of the Fugitive Slave Laws. And in the Prohibition Era of the 1930s, many juries practiced nullification in prosecutions brought against individuals accused of violating alcohol control laws. More recent examples of nullification might include acquittals of “mercy killers,” including Dr. Jack Kevorkian, and minor drug offenders.” (See Jury Nullification, UMKC Edu, by Doug Linder, 2001)
Jury Nullification Can Apply to Unjust Motorcycle Club Prosecutions
Individuals have a right to know that if they become jurors in cases involving motorcycle clubs that they have the power to vote Not Guilty based on an ethical or moral objection to the law itself or the abusive behavior of the prosecution. Individuals have the right to know that they cannot be punished for their verdicts and that they do not have to provide a reason or justification for their verdicts.
Jurors have the power to vote Not Guilty in cases involving organized criminal gang statutes based on the ethical objection that these statutes are so overly broad that they compromise the 1st Amendment and produce an environment where prosecutors ignore basic conceptions of Due Process. Jurors can nullify prosecution strategies that put the state’s interest in punishing the guilty ahead of the interests of the truly innocent in order to deliver a just verdict.
Jurors have the power to vote Not Guilty in cases involving government attempts to seize the trademarks of motorcycle clubs based on the ethical objection that such seizures violate basic freedoms and are malicious attempts by authorities to damage motorcycle clubs based on discriminatory stereotypes.
Education is Vital to the Survival of Motorcycle Clubs
Motorcycle clubs and the 1st Amendment are under attack. The very right to associate and express those associations are being challenged. Prosecutors nationwide are employing tactics and theories that pose a serious threat to fundamental freedoms. Educating the public and potential jurors relating to the power of jury nullification may be an important tool in the struggle for the survival of traditional motorcycle club culture in America.