Jury Nullification in New Hampshire

Jury Nullification in New Hampshire

Since I will always favor justice over strict adherence to the letter of the law (and I believe the two frequently collide), I’ve always kept an eye on stories about jury nullification. Nullification is a fact of life, though not all that frequently is it done openly and explicitly. There is rather little that a judge can do about it when a jury acquits, even if he thinks they violated his instructions. (Interesting article on this here, from someone who doesn’t think nullification is a good idea.)

If I correctly understand it (HT: The Agitator), the new law in New Hampshire permits defense attorneys in their argument to mention that the jury a right to judge both the facts and the law as they relate to those facts. To quote the new statute: “… to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy” (source).  That’s a fairly roundabout way of saying it, but it does broaden the jury’s scope.

I personally have mixed emotions about this. Juries can, as noted in the article I linked above, use such a power for good or for ill, much like any other government official. (And yes, I would consider a juror a government official for the duration of his or her service).

I knew one could get by with nullification, but I didn’t expect to see a law actually supporting it, even in a small way.

PS: After writing this, I found that New Hampshire is not the first state to have such an instruction.

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