Efforts to permit or require judges in criminal cases give jury nullification instructions (discussed here) have now been introduced in a third state this session.
Oregon SB 924 would not only require judges give a jury nullification instruction in criminal cases but the bill provides the exact and specific wording to be used.
As jurors, if you feel that a conviction would not be a fair or just result in this case, it is within your power to find the defendant not guilty even if you find that the state has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
This is similar to the bill approved in the New Hampshire House in that it requires the judge use wording directed by the legislature. This issue came up in that state after the legislature adopted a jury-nullification law several years ago and the courts ruled that the judiciary’s existing jury instructions were sufficient.
If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether the state has proved any one or more of the elements of the crime charged, you must find the defendant not guilty. However if you find that the state has proved all the elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty. Even if you find that the state has proved all of the elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find that based upon the facts of this case a guilty verdict will yield an unjust result, and you may find the defendant not guilty.
The Utah bill doesn’t include exact wording, only that defendants would be entitled to have a jury informed of
- the potential sentence for a guilty verdict and
- “the jury’s power to find a defendant not guilty when a guilty verdict would be manifestly unjust.”
Oregon SB 924 has been filed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.