When a judge seats a jury the jurors take an oath to follow the law. In a jury trial, the Judge is the resident expert on the law. As such, the Judge will, among other things, preside over the proceedings, rule on objections and motions, and, prior to the jury's deliberations, will provide the jury with written instructions related to the law they must follow in their deliberations.
In a jury trial, the jurors are the fact finders. That is to say, the jurors consider all the evidence presented by each side at trial, and determine the facts related to the case. The jury then applies the facts to the law (as provided in the jury instructions) and renders its verdict.
In rare instances, jurors ignore the judge's written instructions, or ignore evidence presented at trial and reach a verdict based on their own notion of what constitutes an appropriate outcome. In essence, the jury ignores the law and/or evidence; and in so doing "nullifies the law." This is known as jury nullification.
While juries have the ability to nullify the law, they do not have the right to do so. In a criminal case, however, the 5th Amendment requires that an acquittal (i.e. where the person charged is found not guilty) due to jury nullification is final even though the jury did not follow the law. In such circumstances, jeopardy attaches, and the defendant cannot be retried for the same offense.
Jury nullification cuts both ways however. That is to say, in certain instances a jury that does not follow the law will improperly acquit a defendant of an offense, and in other instances, juries ignore the law as a means to convict a defendant who would otherwise be acquitted.
Criminal defense attorneys who have tried many jury trials learn how to minimize the potential that their client will be found guilty due to jury nullification. Dallas criminal defense attorney Tom D'Amore has tried more than 400 jury trials including 16 capital murder cases. Through this experience, Tom has developed and implements various techniques to protect his clients from an improper conviction due to jury nullification. These techniques, in part, account for Tom's outstanding results in criminal jury trials.
In you have been charged with a crime, contact the D'Amore Law Firm to schedule a free case evaluation with Tom.