Magazine article Reason

Jury Nullification. (Editor's Note)

Magazine article Reason

Jury Nullification. (Editor's Note)

Article excerpt

I WAS DISMISSED from the only jury on which I've ever been seated.

To be fair, I asked for it. I was in my early 20s, and the case was about a fender bender on that greatest of all roads, the New Jersey Turnpike. (It is great, some natives joke, because it lets you get out of the Garden State quickly and at a bargain price.) After the jury had been selected and sworn in, the judge turned to us and said, "This is going to take about a week. When it comes time for you to deliberate, you have to agree to apply the law as I define it. If I tell you that black is white, or that wrong is right, that's what you have to believe in reaching your decision."

We dutifully mumbled in agreement and went home for the day. Then I started thinking about what the judge had told us. It wasn't the threat of spending a week listening to the nuances of a wreck that bothered me. There are worse places to kill a few days than a courtroom, especially if you're not the one on trial and if you're working a crummy, low-paying job like the one I had at the time. It was the other thing the judge had said that put me on edge, the stuff about black being white and wrong being right.

The next morning I interrupted the judge as he started the trial and handed him a note that I'd typed up the night before. It laid out my discomfort with his insistence that jurors should put aside their personal morality in rendering a verdict. I just couldn't do that, I wrote. It just didn't seem right. There I was--the Antigone of auto accidents! …

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