28 March 2014

Jury Nullification

Some time ago I finally received an email regarding an earlier post wherein I talked about how Wayne Grudem believed that Christians should use their Bibles in jury deliberations and was outraged that a verdict was tossed by a Judge when he discovered members of the jury were referring to the outside source of the Scriptures.

I completely disagreed with Grudem on several points.

This violated the civil rights of the defendant and in reality the basis of judicial authority. Because rather than be judged by the law the defendant is being held to a different standard... a personal non-legislated standard outside the social consensus.

Here's the original post:

The question was asked....

What about Jury Nullification?

What about it indeed. There is a long tradition in this country of juries rejecting the legislative status quo and finding people that are clearly guilty (in the eyes of the law) to be innocent.

This verdict is usually done in protest. The most recent examples would be in the realm of drug prosecutions. In some cases the jury may not agree with the present legislation and even though the defendant is clearly guilty...they find him innocent.

While exasperating to the prosecution there's little they can do.

I'm not sure if this is what Grudem would be advocating. I highly doubt it.

Interestingly it's considered kind of a 'liberal' tactic. Conservative jurists are usually quite hostile to the concept and perhaps you can see why? It effectively undermines the legal process and ultimately leads to a breakdown of judicial authority. Few who revere the law and the institutions that surround it are keen to promote or defend an idea like Jury Nullification.

If that's where Grudem wants to go, then by all means say so and open up the debate. But listening to him I had the feeling that he's probably unfamiliar with the topic or the issues and effectively speaking out of turn.

What's my opinion of it? I think as Christians we have to judge these issues according to Biblically informed conscience. Grudem is right that we would utilize our Bibles in how we view a case. Though I disagree with him on most topics, I would agree the Scriptures are our standard...at least when he believes that to be the case.

But there's the rub. If we do this while promising to judge the case according to the laws of the jurisdiction then we're being deceptive.

If we rightly refuse to follow the standards of the jurisdiction and insist that the Bible alone is our guide, then we will never be selected for a jury or in some cases might risk being found in contempt of court... something we should happily embrace.

If we're going to sit on the jury then we have to agree to the standard the defendant is being held to. If we can't do that, then we simply cannot sit on the jury and must be willing to suffer for it.

Thus far I've always been able to avoid jury duty, but I tremble at the thought of it because I likely will end up in a tussle with the judge and incarcerated.

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