The Marietta Daily Journal reports,
State Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) has filed a bill that would ensure jurors are informed of their rights, including that of jury nullification, a procedure Marietta attorney Tom Cauthorn believes is dangerous.
Gregory describes jury nullification in a criminal trial as what happens when a jury effectively nullifies the law in that specific case by acquitting the defendant, regardless of the weight of evidence against them.
“As a juror, it is your duty to protect our citizens by sending criminals to jail; however, if you believe the defendant is being prosecuted under an unjust law, you have the right, and the constitutional and moral obligation to protect the defendant from tyrannical government and acquit,” Gregory said.
The freshman lawmaker described the procedure as a powerful, under-utilized final check-and-balance measure that citizens have against the arbitrary exercise of power “from an out-of-control government.” . . .
During the first century of the U.S., Gregory said it was common practice for judges to inform jurors of this right as part of their instructions. Prior to the Civil War and thanks to jury nullification, Gregory said, many were safeguarded and set free by juries when prosecuted for participating in the Underground Railroad in violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. . . .
“A juror’s right to nullification, to be judge of both the facts and the application of the law, is enumerated in our own State Constitution’s Bill of Rights,” Gregory said, quoting: “Article I, Section I, Paragraph XI. Right to trial by jury; number of jurors; selection and compensation of jurors. (a) In criminal cases, the defendant shall have a public and speedy trial by an impartial jury; and the jury shall be the judges of the law and the facts.”
Gregory said jurors can and often are excluded during “the voir dire process” simply for knowing their rights or informing others. Similarly, he said judges have been known to prevent defense attorneys from informing jurors of this right or making the case for nullification.
“This bill simply seeks to ensure that jurors are fully informed of their constitutional right to judge both the facts and the application of the law and not excluded from serving on a jury for the simple reason of being aware of this fundamental right,” he said.
Gregory’s bill, House Bill 25, is called the Fully Informed Jury Act of 2013.