Criminal Law: An Overview


§ 1.01 Nature of “Criminal Law”

          [A]     Crimes

                   [1]     Comparison to Civil Wrongs


Are crimes really just whatever legislatures say they are?  That doesn’t seem like a satisfying answer.


Criminal law is public law.


                   [2]     Classification of Crimes

          [B]     Principles of Criminal Responsibility


§ 1.02 Proving Guilt at the Trial

          [A]     Right to Trial by Jury

                   [1]     In General

                   [2]     Scope of the Right

          [B]     Burden of Proof

          [C]     Jury Nullification

                   [1]     The Issue: In General


The jury is totally secret.  It doesn’t have to explain itself.  An acquittal from a jury is absolutely, positively final.  Therefore, the jury can always acquit the defendant for any reason without being subject to sanction or appeal.  Should juries have this power?


                   [2]     The Debate


Advocates say that jury nullification protects against convictions that are legal but not moral.  Critics say that juries ought not to use nullification, because in practice it has had more negative effects than positive effects and because it results in the jury breaking their oath.


                   [3]     The Law


Jury nullification can come up as a matter of what instructions the jury should receive.  The judge doesn’t need to inform the jury of their nullification power.


The defense could ask to have jury nullification mentioned as an option in the instructions, but it’s very rare that this move would succeed.


The prosecution could try to get a juror discharged if there’s evidence they will try to nullify.  The court must give the juror the benefit of the doubt because it mustn’t intrude upon the deliberative process.


                   [4]     Race-Based Nullification


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