LETTERS: Sometimes U.S. juries can ignore unjust laws

11/08/2012 11:56 PM

11/09/2012 12:22 AM

Jury nullification embodies several principles that are crucial to the success of our constitutional republic, including checks and balances, separation of powers, and the social contract.

More importantly, it takes these philosophical ideas and puts them into action at the grass-roots level. In a nutshell, jury nullification is the right of jurors to judge the law as well as the defendant.

In other words, the jury can acquit a defendant who is technically guilty of violating a law if they consider the law itself to be unfair or unjust. Perhaps the most well-known examples of jury nullification occurred before the abolition of slavery with the acquittal of individuals who had violated the federal fugitive slave laws.

Unfortunately, this is not taught so much in elementary schools, high school government classes, or even college political science courses. In fact, most judges today instruct jurors to reach a decision under the assumption that the law is always right. We know this isn't true.

Fulfill your civic duty. Learn about jury nullification. Be a well-informed juror.

NATHAN SWEEM

Merced

Merced City Council earns praise

The mayor and Merced City Council members took action Monday in support of our community's vitality. One step was moving to lower the public facilities impact fees. A second was a finding by the majority of council members that a local firm was qualified to provide engineering services for the McNamara Park renovation. These actions are small but important steps for the retention and creation of jobs in Merced -- jobs that will help to improve the quality of life for all of us. The council deserves a big thank-you from the community for their hard work and commitment to the economic health of Merced.

CURTIS RIGGS

president, Merced Boosters

Merced

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