Jury nullification in Australia

I was recently in a discussion with a friend who happens to be a lawyer. We were discussing the possibility of Jury Nullification. My friend refused to believe that it is a valid option to a citizen when serving on jury and that it is not possible to do it. If you didn’t know, and according the Sydney Criminal Lawyers, “…is where juries find a defendant not guilty of a crime they perceive to be unjust despite the strength of the evidence against them.”  I told her of a situation, around a year or so ago, when I served on a jury during a court case. I was actually chosen to be the foreman of the jury, which on hindsight, I fell was a bit of a weird decision.

Supreme court of Tasmania
Supreme court of Tasmania

The case which I happened to be called to sit in on was kinda serious. There was a man who was being charged with drug trafficking. He was, according to all the information provided by both sides, a drug dealer. He dealt marijuana to people and after a cop bought a bag of drugs from him (and had it tested), the police came back in force to arrest the man.  Now, I don’t take illegal drugs, yet I believe that marijuana should not be illegal.  Due to this belief, I would not find this man guilty of any charge related to marijuana.

The judge told us, very specifically, that the man was innocent unless the prosecution could provide sufficient evidence to persuade us. Yet, every time I talked to the jurors in the private room they were positive the man was guilty. I had to keep pointing out the judge’s advice.

One example is when the police showed images of all the money the man had at his house. Around $30,000 if I recall correctly. The members of the jury decided that having so much money in his house was proof of guilt. I had to explain that I once withdrew $20,000 from the bank to buy a car, then spent the night before I handed it over playing with it (I figured I wouldnt see that kind of money again). That simple story made them change their mind.

According to state law, drug trafficking is related to either the amount of drugs in your possession by weight, or the amount of separate bags you possess (which is 20). The prosecution argued that the man sold one bag to the cop, then when they returned he had 19 bags, which meant he had a total of 20. I figured I knew what the defense would argueyet I couldnt believe the defense lawyers move. He decided to blame one of the cops, saying that the cop made the extra bag to get the man into more trouble. I really couldnt believe it. All the lawyer had to do was state that his client had 18 bags, and when he sold one he made a new onetherefore he never had more than 19 bags ever. Yet he was arguing with the cop. I would have laughed if it wasnt so sad. Eventually the lawyer realized (after 30 minutes of trying) to drop it and asked for a break.

When we returned from lunch we discovered the man had decided to take a plea, so we were dismissed. I really wanted to go up to the man and tell him that his lawyer was terrible, and that I was going to make sure he got offyet I never talked to the man.  I really wished I was able to put my beliefs into practice, yet I was not able to because the man’s lawyer was totally out of his depth.

I have researched Jury nullification in relation to Australian law.  According various websites, jury nullification is a valid option to a person serving on a jury.  I think it is both a right, and a duty as a citizen to stand up against any law which is perceived to be unjust.

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