Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 25–36

The effect of jury nullification instruction on verdicts and jury functioning in criminal trials

  • Irwin A. Horowitz
Article

Abstract

Jury nullification is a mechanism, and a defense, which allows the jury, as representatives of the community, to disregard both the law and the evidence and acquit defendants who have violated the letter, but not the spirit of the law. Should juries simply follow the law as articulated by the trial judge, or should they act as “conscience of the community,” and neglect the strict requirements of the law when it would lead to unjust or inequitable verdicts? The present study was aimed at providing empirical data for the following question: will the jury operate in a manner which is different than its normal functioning if given explicit nullification instructions? Three nullification instructins varying in explicitness as to nullification were combined with three criminal cases to yield a 3×3 factorial design. Forty-five six-person juries (270 subjects), were randomly assigned to the nine experimental groups. The results showed that juries given explicit nullification instructtions were more likely to vote guilty in a drunk driving case, but less likely to do so in a euthanasia case. The third case, which dealt with murder, did not show any differences due to instructions. Juries in receipt of nullification instructions spent less deliberation time on the evidence and more on defendant characteristics, attributions, and personal experiences.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Alexander, J. (Ed.)A Brief Narration of the Case and Trial of John Peter Zenger. New York: Little, Brown, 1963.Google Scholar
  2. Becker, B. C. July nullification: Can a jury be trusted?Trial, October 1980, 18–23.Google Scholar
  3. Borgida, E. A process analysis approach to jury deliberation. Paper presented at Law & Society Meeting, Madison, Wisconsin, June 1980.Google Scholar
  4. Horowitz, I. A. Juror selection: A comparison of two methods in several criminal cases.Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1980,10, 1, 86–100.Google Scholar
  5. Jacobsohn, G. J. The right to disagree: Judges, juries, and the administration of criminal justice in Maryland.Washington University Law Quarterly, 1976,571, 577–579.Google Scholar
  6. Kadish, M. R., & Kadish, S. H.Discretion to Disobey. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1973.Google Scholar
  7. Kalven, H., & Zeisel, H..The American Jury. Boston: Little, Brown, 1966.Google Scholar
  8. Rembar, C.The Law of the Land. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1980.Google Scholar
  9. Severance, L. J., & Loftus, E. F. Improving the ability of jurors to comprehend and apply criminal jury instructions.Law and Society Review, 1982,17, 153–198.Google Scholar
  10. Scheflin, A., & Van Dyke, J. Jury nullification: The contours of a controversy.Law and Contemporary Problems, 1980,43, 4, 52–115.Google Scholar
  11. Scheflin, A. Jury nullification: The right to say no.University of Southern California Law Review, 1972,45, 168–192.Google Scholar
  12. Sparf and Hansen v. United States 156 U.S. 51, 168. (1895).Google Scholar
  13. Simson, G. Jury nullification in the American system: A skeptical view.Texas Law Review, 1976,488, 506–526.Google Scholar
  14. Tachman, M. The persuasion process. Paper presented at Meeting of Law & Society Association, Madison, Wisconsin, June 1980.Google Scholar
  15. United States v. Dougherty 473 F.2d, 1113, 1130–1137 (D.C. circuit). (1972).Google Scholar
  16. Van Dyke, J., The Jury as a Political Institution.Catholic Law Review, 1970,16, 224–270.Google Scholar
  17. Winer, B. J.Statistical Principles in Experimental Design. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irwin A. Horowitz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ToledoToledo

Personalised recommendations