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Two Words You Can Use to Save a Life

Topic

My goal is for people to be excited to get a jury duty summons rather than dreading it, by educating them about the awesome power they can exercise to protect another human being from unjust laws, malicious prosecutions, and unconscionably harsh penalties by voting Not Guilty when a just verdict requires it, even if they believe the law has technically been broken.

Story
Imagine that you are walking along a path around a lake at your local park. It's springtime and you are just starting to see things around you coming to life. Trees are sprouting leaves, flower buds are just starting to form at your feet, and there is a wide belt around the lake cordoned off by park maintenance where they have just put down grass seed. This area is dotted with signs making a polite request: "Please Do Not Walk on the Grass".

Interrupting your otherwise peaceful walk, your attention is captured by cries for help. Someone is in the lake calling for help, their hands flailing above their head, which they are barely able to keep above water. They are drowning, and you are just steps away from saving their life

But darn it! There's that danged grass to think about! The only way to get to the lake, just steps away from you, is to walk on the grass, and the sign tells you not to. If you try to save that person's life, you would have to set aside the request on that sign.

"What a shame," you lament. "I really want to save that person who is going to die without my help. But there's a sign that says I shouldn't walk on the grass. There's nothing I can do to save that person." With sadness and regret, you watch as the drowning victim is overcome by water, as his limbs sink below the surface, the water closing over him as his lifeless body is no longer able to struggle. But you take solace in the knowledge that even though you placed the life of the grass above the life of your neighbor, you were at least obedient.

Does this resonate with you? Is this who you are? I don't think it is. And I HOPE it is not most of us. Yet this is precisely how many people—including many of us—will ultimately behave when we serve as jurors sitting in judgment of another human being.

Imagine now that instead you cross the grass, despite the sign, and pull the drowning man to safety and save his life. You save his loved ones from the trauma of losing a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend.

How about that scenario? Is that the person you see yourself as, or the person you would want to be?

As a juror, you have the opportunity to do that and more, using two simple words: Not Guilty. And you won't even get your clothes wet in the process.

Outline
1. What is jury nullification?

a. General idea is that jurors vote Not Guilty even though they believe the law has technically been broken.

b. If all jurors agree and deliver a Not Guilty verdict, then the case cannot be tried and the law is nullified in that case.

c. If only some jurors stick to a Not Guilty verdict, a mistrial will be declared. The prosecutor can retry the case, but the law is nullified in the trial at hand. This is much better for the defendant than a conviction!

d. Other forms

i. If jurors believe the punishment for the crime committed is unjustly harsh, but that some consequence is warranted, they may vote nullify a higher level charge with a Not Guilty verdict but convict on a lesser charge.

ii. In the sentencing phase of a capital case, jurors can nullify the death penalty and instead impose a sentence of life without parole.

2. What is its purpose?

Is it legal?

How do we exercise it?

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