Senate to vote on jury nullification

Apr 29, 2016

BY: Citizens Count

On Thursday, May 5 the Senate will vote on HB 1270, a bill promoting jury nullification.

Jury nullification is the ability of jurors to find a defendant not guilty even if the state has proven its case.

Under HB 1270, a defendant can request that a judge instruct the jury, “Even if you find that the state has proved all of the elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find that based upon the facts of this case a guilty verdict will yield an unjust result, and you may find the defendant not guilty.”

Supporters of HB 1270 argue that jurors have a right to know about the option of jury nullification, particularly in cases where the majority of the public disagrees with a law on the books.

“Part of our duty as legislators is to make sure that we don’t put jurors … in a position where they find somebody guilty that they know that person should never spend a day in jail, because they feel obligated to do so under the law.  So we have an obligation to the jurors themselves to make sure that they feel their conscience is clear when they leave that court room,” said Rep. Gary Hopper.

Opponents of HB 1270 argue that promoting jury nullification undermines the democratic process used to make laws.

“Not only is this bill likely unconstitutional, it would potentially change how every criminal trial is conducted. We are a country governed by the rule of law and this bill would substitute an arbitrary and unknowable standard in its place,” wrote Rep. Paul Berch.

The Judiciary Committee is recommending the Senate kill the bill.

Do you think New Hampshire should promote jury nullification?  Share your opinion in the comments.

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RELATED REPRESENTATIVES

Representative, NH House of Representatives (2012 - present); Former Acting Judge; Former President, Windham County Bar Association; Board Member and Co-Chairman, Legal Panel of the Vermont ACLU; Retired Attorney

Representative, NH House of Representatives (2008 - present, 2000 - 2004); Mold Maker, Kerk Motion (1998 - 2000); Mold Maker, Peterbourgh Tool (1989 - 1998)

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