Criminal Law, Pages 12–17

State v. Ragland

Supreme Court of New Jersery, 1986


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.


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


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.


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.