Did you know that a jury is allowed to follow their consciences, even if that means that the final decision does not follow the law or the judge’s instructions? A jury’s right to nullify is something that is not taught in our schools. In fact, most citizens are unaware of this power.Ellie Krieg, my daughter, recently wrote a detailed research paper about a jury’s right to nullify.
She wrote this paper for her senior-level legal studies course at Grand Valley State University and received an “A” from one of the toughest teachers in the program!
In this paper, Krieg discusses the story of University of Michigan student Jeffrey Pyne being convicted of murdering his mentally ill mother. She maintains that the outcome of the case may have been different if the jury was informed of their right to nullify. She quotes legal television personality Nancy Grace, who predicted that the jury would in fact nullify the Pyne verdict.
In addition to reviewing the laws, precedence, and pros and cons regarding jury nullification, Krieg also argues that our laws support the fact that a jury should be instructed about their rights to follow their consciences.
“Jury instructions, and whether or not they inform jurors of the right to nullify, can have an interesting effect on the outcome of verdicts, and therefore, it is an important topic to address,” she states.
“By allowing jury nullification, the court is placing a higher emphasis on morality rather than the strict following of the law, and if the court allows nullification, it certainly ought to inform jurors of this.”