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Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine [Paperback]

Clay Conrad , Clay S. Conrad
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)


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Book Description

January 1999 0890897026 978-0890897027
Juries have been delivering independent verdicts in the interest of justice for over 800 years, and many legal historians and scholars believe the value of juries is their power to act as the "conscience of the community," serving as the final check and balance on government in the moment of truth. If juries are nothing more than rubber stamps, they are no limit on government's power to pass unjust, immoral, or oppressive laws, and citizens are entirely at the mercy of sometimes jaded or corrupt courts and legislatures. This was what the Founding Fathers feared, and this is the reason why they guaranteed trial by jury three times in the Constitution -- more than any other right.

In Jury Nullification, author Clay Conrad examines the history, the law, and the practical and political implications of jury independence, examining in depth the role of nullification in capital punishment law, the dark side of jury nullification in Southern lynching and civil rights cases, and the purpose and legal effect of the juror's oath. The book concludes with an examination of what trial lawyers can do when nullification is the best available defense. This book should be of interest to historians, trial lawyers, criminologists, political scientists, and anyone interested in knowing how our criminal justice system works -- and how to make it better.



Editorial Reviews

Review

"Conrad provides...a comprehensive overview of jury nullification in historical, substantive, policy, and practical terms." -- The Federal Lawyer, Vol. 47, No. 4, 2000

About the Author

Clay S. Conrad is a trial lawyer in Houston, Texas, with the law firm of Looney & Conrad, P.C. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Carolina Academic Press (January 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0890897026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0890897027
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,512,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Many have heard how juries bravely refused to convict people accused of assisting runaway slaves in the 19th century but few know the full history of jury nullification. Clay Conrad aims to remedy that ignorance in this excellent book from the Cato Institute. Starting with cases from hundreds of years ago, the history of jury powers is meticulously detailed with all the major episodes covered including recent events such as the Laura Kriho conviction. Jury independence is shown time and again to have been on the right side of issues such as slavery, prohibition, the labor movement and draft resistance. The modern jury power movement is also examined.
This isn't just a history book, though. The author looks at constitutional issues, studies of jury behavior, and also addresses many of the criticisms of jury power. The most widely repeated criticism is that jury nullification was largely responsible for the lack of convictions in the South of whites committing crimes against blacks. Conrad makes a strong case that it was racist judges, police and prosecutors as well as the practice of preventing blacks from serving on juries that resulted in so few convictions.
The book is rounded out with a chapter full of interesting tactics on how lawyers can introduce nullification arguments in court.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You must read this book!! June 3, 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Just before a jury retires to deliberate in a criminal case, the judge tells the jurors that they "must follow the law--even if they do not agree with it." This book shows that such an instruction is very misleading. A ton of evidence is presented to show that juries are supposed to "check" the government by returning "not guilty" verdicts whenever they conclude that the person on trial is being treated unjustly. Our second president, John Adams, said "it is not only the juror's right, but his duty, to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, even though in direct opposition to the direction of the judge."

These days judges influence the outcome of trials by counting on the average citizen's ignorance and by "excusing" any citizen who knows about the doctrine of jury nullification. Interestingly, a single vote can make a big difference. Because a unanimous vote is necessary for a conviction, a single juror who votes his or her conscience (and withstands the peer pressure to go along with the others) can obtain a hung jury. The person on trial may be retried again, but prosecutors will surely think twice about the matter before expending more time and money on the case.

The author explains how jury nullification got a bad wrap and convincingly answers the common objections. I was surprised to learn that defense attorneys can be punished for mentioning seemingly important pieces of information at trial. For example, if someone used marijuana to relieve nausea stemming from AIDS, the judge typically "bars" any mention of the person's illness as "irrelevent." The jury never hears about it. That does not sound like a "trial by jury" to me
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Excellent Book March 14, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Conrad's book is superb! He examines the history of the right of "jury nullification" or "jury independence" (the right and obligation of jurors to judge the LAW, as well as the FACTS in any case). Like most people, I knew relatively little about this right, which today is usually never mentioned to actual sitting jurors. Conrad traces the history of the use of this right, which was well known and legally recognized until very recently by the courts. Part of English common law, it was used extensively from the 1200's until the 1930's. From "seditious libel against the crown", to the slavery issue, to Prohibition, Jury Nullification was used to acquit defendants whenever the jury felt that the specific law was unjust or the penalty was grossly unfair. Thus, jurors had the right and obligation to judge the LAW and the case FACTS in order to render justice - regardless of any instructions from the presiding judge and the courts. This is a remarkable book, easy to read and filled with interesting facts that every American should know. I recommend it highly.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About Time! February 27, 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
With the growth of interest in juries since the OJ and Kevorkian cases, it is about time that someone wrote a truly well-researched work on how juries actually work, and why. This work is long overdue. Conrad does an excellent job in developing the history of the criminal jury, and explains why criminal juries have the "prerogative" of nullifing laws that are unjust or unjustly applied.
Whether liberal, libertarian or conservative, it is hard to argue that juries have to follow the law no matter how unjust the law is. Now, there is a well-researched and well documented book explaining how and why the jury's nullification power became a part of American law. It is about time.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jury discretion: no scarier than prosecutorial discretion November 21, 1999
Format:Paperback
A fascinating study of the often-ignored history of jury nullification in America. Today we mostly think of this phenomenon in the context of the O.J. Simpson trial, or the juries that refused to convict racist killers in the South during the Civil Rights era. As the author points out, that's a small part of the jury nullification picture. The Framers considered such injustices well worth it in light of the jury's ability to frustrate the actions of would-be tyrants. Such discretion on the part of juries has its downside, of course -- but so does the unbridled discretion of prosecutors, which is generally considered to be a Good Thing by many of those who fear giving the same discretion to juries. As Conrad makes clear, it's not obvious why this should be the case.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning experience
Accounts in history that you did not get in school. Very interesting material. They should really start using these books in school.
Published 4 months ago by Darryl G. Lofton
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great book for lawyers
This book with help lawyers and pro se litigants navigate the jury box with confidence. It will give them the edge when presenting their case.
Published 5 months ago by Capt. Dye
5.0 out of 5 stars The Defining Work on Jury Nullification
If you read only one book on the topic, this is the one you need. It's a bit depressing to learn how judges have systematically limited the information juries have at their... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Steven Silverman
5.0 out of 5 stars A Libertarian reviews an excellent scholarly text
I have been a libertarian since 1980. I ran for U.S. Senate in 1996 and U . S. House in 2008 in Wyoming. I have been an attorney since 1987 and a podiatrist since 1976 . Read more
Published 14 months ago by Sherry
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly interesting and informative read
One of the greatest bulwarks of our freedom in the U.S. is the right to trial by jury. And at times in our nation's history when the government has been perceived to have... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Kurt A. Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book; Dangerous Doctrine
The concept of Jury Nullification is appealing in an antiintellectual sort of way. It appeals to those with offended sentiments. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Marvelous Mal
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable, to gain a full understanding of this crucial "The...
This book was vital in my fuller understanding and education on a subject of which I had only fragmented knowledge. Read more
Published on July 9, 2012 by Sui Juris
5.0 out of 5 stars Be informed
This information is good to know. To find out more go to FIJA on the web. Spread the word because not many know about this.
Published on March 2, 2010 by James MacDonald
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative read, made me understand my rights as a juror, also...
Absolutely fascinating read, this book is really eye opening. And if you do not care to serve on a jury, take this book with you to jury duty. Read more
Published on December 16, 2009 by Two kids mom
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