Jury nullification: The myth revisited

Joseph A. Hamm, Brian H. Bornstein, Jenna Perkins

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Jury nullification, which refers to the jury's intentional disregard of the law as presented in arriving at its verdict, is an important policy concern for the legal system. Despite the well-settled law regarding the issue, the legal field is entrenched in a decades old debate regarding its merits and problems, with proponents arguing that courts should explicitly instruct jurors as to this right, and opponents arguing that explicitly avowing nullification "risks the ultimate logic of anarchy." As in many other policy situations, however, psychology has much that it can say about this issue - most importantly regarding under what circumstances, and even if, nullification occurs. Unfortunately, most research to date has focused on the somewhat peripheral question of the influence of jury nullification instructions on verdict and not jury nullification itself. The current chapter begins by outlining the relevant case law before turning to the psychological research that has addressed nullification. In so doing, this chapter identifies the principal shortcoming of this literature, namely, the use of verdicts as a primary dependent variable. The chapter then reports a study which proposes and uses a paradigm for measuring actual nullification verdicts in order to determine whether mock jurors completing a jury nullification task, which varied the presence or absence of instructions on the right to nullify, would actually return verdicts which could reasonably be viewed as nullification. The current research is important for both academics and policy makers. For academics, the research presents a paradigm for evaluating jury nullification. For policy makers, the findings underscore the supposition that nullification may in fact be a relatively low base-rate event. Contrary to the concerns of its critics, jury nullification seems to be neither errant nor particularly more likely in the presence of so called nullification instructions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPsychology of Policy-Making
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9781626188099
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Psychology


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