The People’s Power: Jury Nullification

While once considered a very important role in our nation, jury duty is now most commonly viewed as another hindrance in the lives of the American people. I wonder if people knew just how much power they wield as jury members, if that would change? I hope so.

The first Chief Justice, John Jay, stated the following to the first jury in the first Supreme Court trial held in the United States:

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 controversy. On this, and on every other occasion, however, we have no doubt you will pay that respect which is due to the opinion of the court; for, as on the one hand, it is presumed that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumable that the courts are the best judges of law. But still, both objects are lawfully within your power of decision (Georgia vs Brailsford 1794).