Informing jurors of their nullification power: A route to a just verdict or judicial chaos?

Niedermeier, K. E., Horowitz, I. A., & Kerr, N. L. (1999). Informing jurors of their nullification power: A route to a just verdict or judicial chaos? Law and Human Behavior, 23, 331-351.

The current studies sought to test whether explicitly informing jurors of their power to nullify the law does invite “chaos,” defined by jurists as undisciplined and biased juror judgment. A series of four studies examined juror biases predicated on defendant status, remorse, gender, national origin, penalty severity, and extenuating circumstances. None, however, were amplified by nullification instructions, providing little evidence that such instructions invite chaos with respect to the biases examined in these studies. To the contrary, several results suggested that nullification instructions simply encourage jurors to nullify when the strict application of the law would result in an unjust verdict. Limitations of the studies and public policy issues are discussed.

<1>Tendency for more convictions under standard instructions (compared with nullification reminder) and lighter mandatory sentence. <2>Fewer convictions with nullification reminder; more leniency shown to higher status defendants when they didn’t display remorse; opposite pattern for low-status defendants.

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