Tip: Loyalty to a political party is not patriotism for your country.
In a memo dated Feb. 18, Doug Gardner, director of the Legislature's legal services division, said the bill could run afoul of U.S. Supreme Court decisions going back to the 19th Century. In one case cited by Gardner, the Supreme Court said that "it is the duty of juries in criminal cases to take the law from the court, and apply that law to the facts as they find them to be from the evidence."
Jury nullification occurs when a jury acquits a defendant they believe to be guilty by nullifying one or more laws that they believe should not apply to the defendant. Jurors often exercise nullification when they either personally disagree with a law or feel that the punishment mandated by a law is too harsh. In general, jurors are not reminded by judges of their nullification powers.
It may not be amiss, here, Gentlemen, to remind you of the good old rule, that on questions of fact, it is the province of the jury, on questions of law, it is the province of the court to decide. But it must be observed that by the same law, which recognizes this reasonable distribution of jurisdiction, you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy.
The primary function of the independent juror is not, as many think, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by the government.
This demonstrates clearly the responsibility of juries to serve as a check against judges and prosecutors who may think they’re the last word in all matters of the law. Respect for the law and the courts is necessary for the good of all in a free society, and sometimes, as the number of frivolous and oppressive laws multiply, a little nullification can be a tonic, and a reminder to the lawyers, including judges, of who’s really the boss.