Debating Intentional Jury Nullification as a Response to Systemic Racism

Former prosecutor and law professor Paul Butler argued for intentional jury nullification (giving a not guilty verdict even though you believe that the person is factually guilty) as a response to a biased system. While his call to action is questionable to many, I want you to take the time to truly understand why he is suggesting it and then coming up with your own stance on this issue. Please pay particular attention to the slides that cover this issue towards the end of the PowerPoint, including his rationale for suggesting such a plan of action (read the article that is included in the slides) and watch the YouTube clips from his television interviews (also included in the slides – you will notice that they are dated and that they are relatively contentious) to help you base your stance for this assignment.Prompt: Imagine you are summoned for jury duty at the local criminal courthouse and you are selected to the jury. The case that you are serving on is for a 19-year-old African-American male charged with possessing and trafficking moderate amounts of crack cocaine in his economically disadvantaged neighborhood in the Fifth Ward. Based on the evidence introduced at trial, it seems to you to support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A fellow juror has proposed that the jury consider nullification of the guilty verdict. She argues that too many poor young Black men get punished for nonviolent, victimless crimes that Whites commit just as often, but without facing the same risk of prosecution or the full range of repercussions that African-Americans face. Other jurors are split in their reactions to her idea, and it is your turn to comment. What will you say? Prepare a statement that is roughly 1-2 pages in length that addresses your views on the nullification proposal. Your statement should address the following: 1) Explain Professor Butler’s reasoning for suggesting that we use jury nullification as a way to send a message about a biased system (again, use his article and the videos to help you). 2) Agree or refute that there is a disparity of African-American males in prison for nonviolent victimless crimes (i.e. what does the research tell us?). 3) Agree or refute that Whites commit these just as often, but face punishment less frequently (i.e. what does the research tell us?). 4) Aside from your stance on the following two prompts, explain whether you morally/ethically agree or disagree with using jury nullification to try to combat a biased system. And 5) if you have disagreed with using jury nullification in this case, explain other possible solutions that you think would better address the systemic biases that plague our criminal justice system. In your response, be sure to reflect upon how your own race, gender, socioeconomic status, political leanings, etc. affect your views.

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