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Verdicts of Conscience: Nullification and the Modern Jury Trial

Arie M. Rubenstein
Columbia Law Review
Vol. 106, No. 4 (May, 2006), pp. 959-993
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4099472
Page Count: 35
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Verdicts of Conscience: Nullification and the Modern Jury Trial
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Abstract

The right to a jury trial is deeply embedded in the American criminal law system. While nominally the jury is only a finder of fact, criminal juries occasionally defy their instructions and oaths by acquitting a defendant they believe to be guilty-jury nullification. In denying the existence of valid nullification, the federal courts generally rely on Sparf v. United States, a nineteenth-century case wherein the Supreme Court narrowed the role of the jury. This Note argues that recent Supreme Court precedent has reevaluated the role of the jury and in the process has expanded the possibilities for nullification. This Note then suggests a conservative proposal for expanding the role of verdicts of conscience without disrupting the modern trial dynamic.

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