Loved class today though, I thought it was a very good experience and definitely provoked a lot of thought. I also liked having a small group format, and getting to know people better. I do think the "lecture" at the end went on a bit longer than expected and wasn't sure if Fern would jump in
I thought today was great. As usual, extremely provocative. This class is making me think harder about basic aspects of our justice system I think law students tend to take for granted. The breakout into 8 person juries also helped to force some of this thought organically, before Nesson tied it together.
Thank you for fixing the thread to update automatically, that is a huge help. I really enjoyed today's class. It was great to break up into smaller groups and facilitated better discussion and learning for me personally. I liked hearing everyone else's thoughts. I would love to further discuss the role of discretion in the system and who has responsibility/who should have responsibility for justice in the system. I would like *clarification about the list of readings at the bottom of the google doc*-- i.e. when are we supposed to do those
Nobody mentioned what I think is the most important argument against jury nullification: protection of minorities. The evil that jury nullification can bring can be seen in, say, people who clearly committed lynchings getting let off, or people succeeding in using the gay panic defense. Minorities can most definitely suffer because of jury nullification. The question is whether or not that is worth it.
but the prosecutorial discretion is more informed. for example, jury is not aware of the defendents past criminal record, inadmissible evidence, etc. and the prosecutors use those pieces of info to decide when to use prosecutorial discretion
I appreciated the class exercise on jury simulation. It was interesting to discuss the issues in smaller groups, and was certainly helpful in getting to know some of my fellow classmates better. I appreciated Fern's insights towards the end of class, and would love to have heard more about the process in challenging the conviction in appellate process.
I very much enjoyed the jury exercise and discussion. I think if we had done the memento thing prior to the jury exercise it would have been better since we could have gotten to know each other personally a bit more before debating. Additionally makes me think what effect jurors knowing each other personally outside of the trial might have on what they are willing to say, or what a pseudonymonous jury might look like.
@Ariel but the proprietorial discretion is completely unchecked. Shouldn't that be troubling? More information does not necessarily lead to a better decision, it's about how you apply that information.
Loved the smaller groups and the ability to get to know some of my classmates' unique backgrounds. Would really like more of that. The discussion by Professor Nesson about the jury and judiciary was fascinating and eye opening.
There is a tendency to think of jury nullification as a protection against unjust prosecution. We may want to think harder about jury nullification at time as a rejection of carrying out the public's interest in a just prosecution for the wrong resons (as it was used in lynching cases in the South). Empowering juries runs certain risks we may not have fully engaged with.
I think there are two opportunities for injustice in our system: convicting someone who does not deserve it, or letting someone go free who is deserving of justice. My main concern with jury nullification is it can cut against justice by letting those go free who are deserving of punishment because they are the a sympathetic defendant or are a member of a favored class - I understand it is one extra opportunity to check overzealous prosecutors, but I think it is important to recognize that it is also an opportunity to subvert real justice as well
If we are to conceive of the jury as a sovereign body, I wonder whether the jury instructions should be revised to allow jurors to discuss the content of the case outside the courtroom. In everyday moral deliberation, we consult those in whose judgment we trust - friends, family members, teachers, mentors. By telling jurors that can't discuss the case with such people, you arguably deprive them of the basic sources of consultation in moral judgment. So deprived, the jury is vulnerable to manipulation by the prosecution and defense.
@Forgeham i wouldn't say it's completely unchecked. most prosecutors are elected right? they are democratically accountable. sure, more information doesnt necessarily lead to a better one, but it undeniably makes you better positioned to decide whether it's a good idea for that person to be prosecuted.
There's an interesting dichotomy between judges who are studied in the law and jurors who, as was pointed out in class, are often weeded out for being too knowledgeable about the matters at issue; would love to discuss the implications of this further
@Hyperion - some people are deserving of the punishment. Read the news - some people do terrible things and there must be punishment to recognize that harm. We can talk about reform or less punishment, but certainly there are certain eggregious acts that require rectification
We also engaged in an extensive discussion among our small breakout group on the merits of jury nullification. The sentiment of those who believed Calvin was guilty seemed to be that the statute didn’t rise to a level sufficiently egregious to warrant jury nullification. As important as I find the area of gun safety to be, however, I do not think that a mandatory jail sentence is the proper punishment for the offense at issue. I would be curious to hear more about how people’s feelings about incarceration played into their jury decisions. Especially from those who have experience in legal systems outside of the US.
Again, I really enjoyed today's class. However, I think contentious discussions are sometimes cut short, which means we cannot delve beyond the surface level arguments. It may be useful to begin these discussions earlier or start the next class with the professor giving students the opportunity to raise any comments they have about previous discussions. This would allow us to continue these discussions and give students the opportunity to give deeper consideration to these issues overnight.
I appreciated Professor Nesson's analysis into the justifications for jury nullification, and certainly for clarifying the extent of nullification, as well as the rights of juries to know what powers they have. I do, however, want to raise an issue about jury composition and its effects on nullification. Juries are rarely (if ever) a "neutral" body comprised of actual peers from the community, and the stipulation that jurors not know anything in advance about the case introduces further room for systematic bias. I wonder whether, given such circumstances, if nullification from such juries are even just? Or, if nullification is a power that should be given to juries even if we know that juries are systematically biased. It also raises the issue of whether stipulating that jurors not know anything about the case in advance is sound.
@Ariel, sure they might be elected but their day-to-day processes are not overseen. There are so many small opportunities with in this system for bias to enter that I don't think being voted into office accounts for. Me casting a vote for a prosecutor is not the same as me being able to chime in on who they prosecute and how, what tactics they use, or even having knowledge about the discretion that they exert. I would love to hear more about this from Fern given her experience
1) pls bring sweet pea back 2) i have a newfound life purpose: make jury nullification a thing. also i'm now convinced that the judge=law/jury=facts requirement is not only wrong but unconstitutional fight me
@Mahasim - that is correct I do. If you murder people for no reason, prison is what is required for safety and for the victim's to have any sense of closure or that the law recognizes their harm. I'm sure there are other conceptions of justice, but I think there are certain crimes which absolutely must be accompanied by prison and stiff sentences
Let's have more conversations where we question the systems that be and empower the masses to seize the democratic power they should have. To suggest that we wait until election period to express our dissatisfaction with our legal system feels intellectually disingenuous at best and harmful at worst. These election cycles do not happen at a frequency that allows for an accurate reflection of the ever-changing zeitgeist. Further, the fact remains that an election only addresses one branch of our legal system, and completely ignores the actions of police officers, parole officers, bailiffs, appointed judges, assistant prosecutors, public defenders, and a myriad of other actors who influence the outcome of a case. I'd rather we shed light to the perverseness in every sector of our criminal justice system, and rather than wait for people from above to make those changes, take the power that we supposedly possess and speak for ourselves as a people.
@mahasim. so are prisons ever a form of justice? what about violent crimes like armed robbery (i won't even go into things like rape and murder). what's an appropriate punishment for people who have committed fraud? that so many people at harvard are opposed to the idea of prisons itself shows how out of touch harvard is with the general public
@Umbriel I very much agree with your sentiment. The jury in its ideal form might have represented the people. But today it is whittled down to an often ignorant bunch and shaped and formed by conniving counsel. I would be scared to task this undiverse group of jurors with the immense powers of nullification, without first reforming the jury selection and voir dire process.
i'm being serious about prison abolition. prisons in the US vastly increase violence both within the prisons and outside. i think a functional system would hold people accountable for the harm they cause but also assess the causes of harm, see what the community needs to recover, and develop solutions from there
I don't see how you could be okay with people running around on the street who rape children. I am 100% in favor of getting rid of prison sentences for non-violent crimes.... but what are we realistically supposed to do with those who are real threats to society?
@Procyon A. some people who talk about prison abolition are completely earnest, which is a hopeless and dumb idea, literally have no idea why people argue in favor of this ridiculous position. what is the alternative? let murderers and rapists run free?
Paul Newman's closing argument in The Verdict –– "I mean there is no justice. The rich win; the poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time we become dead, a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims -- and we become victims. We become weak; we doubt ourselves; we doubt our beliefs; we doubt our institutions; and we doubt the law. But today you are the law. You are the law, not some book, not the lawyers, not a marble statue, or the trappings of the court. See, those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are, in fact, a prayer, I mean a fervent and a frightened prayer. In my religion, they say, "Act as if you had faith; faith will be given to you." If we are to have faith in justice we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice. See, I believe there is justice in our hearts." ––
I enjoyed today's class for a few reasons. It was refreshing to hear different POVs on Jury Nullification, especially from some of the international students that were in my small group. I've had the longstanding opinion that the role of the American Jury is to enforce justice, and not the law; however, today's discussion has made me reconsider whether this is the most effective role of the jury. I found Mike's argument on democratic accountability quite persuasive. Because criminal prosecutions are more democratically accountable than juries, it is a good point that if the voters don’t like how a prosecutor’s office has exercised discretion, they can vote to throw out the head of the office and the prosecutor. I also enjoyed Jayson's point about ideally having justice at all levels of criminal prosecution. I'm looking forward to hearing more from you all next class.
@Procyon A is it detached from reality? i've visited more than 20 prisons and talked to hundreds of people who have committed a range of crimes including some that you have mentioned, and this is my stance. Can you say the same?
exactly right @sunflower. Why and in what context has prison ever been effective.. effective at what? severing someone from society? Promoting recidivism? A cheap alternative to psychiatric wards and hospital beds?
For those who are so quick to support nullification, would they also support the jury who uses that power to convict? why is that not something to worry about? and why are we not concerned of the selective makeup of the actual jury and the systematic filtration of those with opinions or significant education?
I've heard a lot of stuff about prison abolition but have been told it doesn't actually mean literally no one ever being "held" after crimes, can someone explain what you want as the alternative? Would love to know more
It was interesting to see the group dynamics/tone shift as we went from the first activity of jury deliberation to the second activity of memento-sharing - the group dynamic went from somewhat hostile to friendly/easily understanding of other individuals. It would be great to also be able to discuss contentious topics with the more respectful tone. I'd prefer to primarily do small group discussions because I think they were easier to participate in and I liked getting to know other individuals.
but real talk there is a legitimate issue about racism and sexism and classism and homophobia that could and does affect the jury and is something we should think seriously about when discussing jury nullification and also whoever said the thing about rapists running around the streets- there's a legitimate argument about rehabilitation over prison AND i believe jury nullification is important and if we continue to have our current system, where we cabin the power and accountability of almost everyone involved in the justice system, that means we have no one thinking about justice in our system, which necessitates an unjust system. while we should worry about unjust discretion and the biases of juries, by saying that juries have no ability to rightfully decide what is just, we create a system where none of us believe our society has the ability to be just, so again, we create an unjust system. that is all.