Jenner & Block

Partner Robert L. Byman Explores the Controversial History of Jury Nullification

In this article, Jenner & Block Partner Robert L. Byman examines the controversial history of jury nullification, told through the framework of his pro bono representation of a teenager accused of murder for the death of a fellow high-school student in a brawl.

“I simply wanted to tell the jury that the state could have charged my kid with what he actually did – mob action, which carries a maximum term of three years,” writes Mr. Byman. “I wanted to tell the jury that if they, like I, believed that a law that turned those six aberrational seconds into first degree murder was unfair, then they could, without fear of reprisal, ignore that law.”

Mr. Byman adds that “if I had been allowed to tell them that, it would have been true. It’s just that if I had told that truth, I would have been reprised against – fined, disbarred, incarcerated, all possible outcomes – for simply speaking a truth, for letting the jury know about jury nullification.”

The article goes on to explore how jury nullification can be used to both preserve and undermine justice, and its potential future in the US judicial system.