Criminal Law, Pages 12–17

State v. Ragland

Supreme Court of New Jersery, 1986

Facts:

Defendant was convicted of multiple charges related to an armed robbery, including possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. The jury instructions said, "If you find that the defendant, Gregory Ragland, was previously convicted for the crime of robbery and that he was in possession of a sawed-off shotgun, . . . then you must find him guilty as charged by this Court."(emphasis added)

Defendant's Argument:

Telling the jury that they must find defendant guilty if he did the crime undermines the right of jury nullification, an essential attribute of a defendant's right to trial by jury.

Issue:

Is jury nullification an essential attribute of a trial by jury?

Reasoning:

There is no evidence that jury nullification is a good thing, despite often being believed to be so. The mere idea of it being a right is a recent invention. Jury nullification is blatantly disregarding the law for the jury's own arbitrary reasons. A judge, as the symbol of law, should not encourage such violations. It begets cynicism and is completely inconsistent with the idea that America has a government of laws and not of men. Allowing it will only further exacerbate the inequality present in America. The criminal justice system is designed to reach a rational result; allowing those at the very end to disregard all logic and just arbitrarily pick the result is incomprehensible.

Rule/Holding:

Jury nullification is not one of the precious attributes of the right to trial by jury. It is nothing more than a power whose exercise is unavoidable yet undesirable.

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