Legal theories help law practitioners to understand the various laws and how they are applied in real life. After studying the theories, they get to practice and test the theories in an actual environment. They opt to understand the various behaviours and how they can be used to enact justice in various states. Various legal theories have been developed, but the most common legal theories are Natural, Positive, Marxist, and Realist Law theories. The theories can be applied to understand the aspect of jury nullification in the US.
Natural Law Theory
It is one of the oldest theories that has ever been developed to help humans make the laws that govern them. The laws that fall under this category are termed as the eternal law, law of reason, principle of natural justice, and rational law. The definition of natural law has changed. However, the most common one is that it is the forms the principle of natural justice. They are the laws of nature and ordained by God. Everybody that is born is entitled to natural laws since they are provided by nature, and the punishment for breaking the laws is also fulfilled naturally.
The aspect of natural law theory has served in many societies and countries. It has also helped people across several decades to demand better treatment from those in authority. In the Roman era, it formed the basis of jus civile and jus gentium (Abate, 2012). The former governed the roman citizens while the latter governed the foreigners. The empire was based on rules, although the colonies were not treated as same as the citizens. The law of reason dictated that since the Roman was providing the protection that the colonies needed, they had to be treated better.
The Catholic Popes during the middle age in Europe used the aspect of natural law to become a dictator and command the people and Kings alike. The popes used the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, which claimed that the natural laws are God’s laws, and the Pope is the representation of God (Abate, 2012). It made it possible for Popes to interpret the Bible to serve their agenda and force it on people. They became dictators and talked with the authority of God on earth. The Roman Catholic had their soldiers that carried out the wishes of the Pope and helped to overthrow Kings that stood against him.
The natural law theory later changed as was proposed by Locke, Montesque, and other scholars during the Feudalism stage. They suggested that all men are created free and equal rights. This definition of Natural Law theory helped people to stand up for themselves and demand better treatment. The Natural Law Theory has helped to create and achieve revolutions in various states. It assisted in the French Revolution (1789), The English Revolution (1888), and the American Declaration of Independence (Abate, 2012).
Natural Law Theory can also be applicable in the case of Jury Nullification. The jury has the right to observe the evidence provided and decide on the case, and no judge can overturn their ruling unless the case is appealed and the new jurors reach a new verdict. In Natural Law theory, everybody is born free and the same. As such, it would not be fair for one individual to decide the fate of a person. People have a different perspective. In most countries and systems, it is decided that the majority rules. In the law of reason, the decision that is reached by the majority is likely to be accurate. As such, the jurors have more power over the judge. For any conviction, the jury is required to have a unanimous vote. All members need to nullify the case for it to stand in court. The jury system promotes the aspect of majority win. It also helps to contain the power of the judge. The Judge only system placed too much power in one individual’s hands, just like the Natural Law theory once made Pope very powerful to the point of becoming a dictator.
Despite the influence of the theory in various cultures and societies, it has received criticism. The theory provides for equity and God-given laws. However, no scholar of lawmakers could provide for the actual content of the natural laws. John Austin was among the first to reject the theory and ended up developing positive law theory.
Positive Law Theory
It is also known as imperative or analyst law theory. It was designed to counter the aspect of natural law theory. The theory claim that laws ought to be accounted for and cannot be based on what ought to be. The laws are based on the Sovereign body and cannot be based on reason, justice, or morality to evaluate its validity. The theory believes that subjects and other people should not question the laws that have been made by the sovereign body but have to accept them and adhere to the regulations.
Since this theory believes that the laws are imperative, they only vary from place to place and time. A sovereign body can decide to change the laws due to the changing times, and all the subjects ought to do is to obey. This theory also refutes universal law and calls on countries to mind their laws rather than concentrating on others. The theory was seconded by Austin, Bentham, and H.L.A Hart and supported by their followers (Abate, 2012). Those who follow this theory believe that a law is a direction that is given by the sovereign to the subjects, and no questions are asked. As such, the laws have three components that are command, sovereign, and sanction. Command refers to the laws that are written or communicated orally by the sovereign body to the subjects. The sovereign refers to the person in charge, king, monarch, emperor, or a group of people like governments. Sanctions refer to the punishment that a person received for breaking the commands of the sovereign.
This theory is applicable in Jury Nullification. The jury system aspect was put in the system by the sovereign body and is clearly provided for in the constitution. In the US, the sovereign body in the constitution and all the rules written in the constitution have to be followed. The courtroom settings make the juror the sovereign that determines the fate of the suspect regardless of the evidence provided to support the case. The judge and the other subjects have to obey the outcome since it is part of the constitution. However, the constitution provides an opportunity for the prosecutors to appeal the case in the higher courts and have another trial with a new set of jurors.
This theory has received numerous criticisms. The theory bases the law on the sovereign, although it is clear that the law has been in existence since the start of the universe. The laws cannot revolve on the bodies that were formed when laws already existed in various societies. The primitive law existed before the creating of states of community units. They helped people to live in harmony. The theory is also criticized in that people mainly obey laws that they support or are willing to reap the rewards associated with the laws. Sanctions that is fear of punishment does not commit people to follow the law. The third criticism is that regarding sovereignty as the main source of laws is superficial since people need to know the rules’ validity before they resort to supporting them.
Marxist Law Theory
The theory claims that laws came into existence with the privatization of properties. The privatization of properties brought the state into existence. The greedy people in the society decided that people needed to have private properties and that rules had to be in place to help protect the properties. The aspect of the property also gave rise to the social classes and royal families. The royal families claimed the land in which people used to live and had to give some parts to their subjects to help control them. They also came up with ways to control the subjects by creating rules and taking advantage of the fact that they did not have adequate properties (Abate, 2012).
The theory claims that there will be no need for any laws without the privatization of properties, just like it was in primitive times. It also claims that communists can share all the properties communally to reduce the laws that deal with the privatization of properties. Many communist countries, including the former United Soviet Socialist Russia, challenged the theory and concluded that it could not be turned.
In the jury nullification aspect, the theory ascertains that without privatization of properties, there will be no jury system. However, in the communal societies during primitive laws, the elders decided on the fate of the people who failed to adhere to the community’s regulations. Some people were burnished from the community because of their activities. Unlike the group of elders, the jury system provides an opportunity for a person to be judged by a juror of their peers. People under the same age group and societal class can understand each other and pass the right judgment. The system also ensures that the jurors are able to pass a concrete judgment since they are vetted by the attorneys from both sides and the judge.
Realist Theory of Law
The theory deals with the actual working of the law and not the definition or its origin. It deals with the practicality and how it can be applied in the legal system. Judges are the ones that pass judgments in courts and decides on the sentencing of the individual. Even in the Jury system, the judge sentences the suspect after they have been found guilty. The judges have to ensure that the sentencing is within the laws that are provided by the constitutions.
This theory also suggests that the judges are the ones that make the laws come to life by their ruling in courts. It also supports the application of rulings of the past cases in the current cases. Judges can cite the past rulings to make their judgment. In such cases, they can fail to follow any act in the constitution, and yet the ruling is final and can only be challenged through appeals. The theory claims that the judges are the ones that have the actual power to make laws. However, judges cannot use the previous rulings in civil law (Abate, 2012), which is the world’s most common system. As such, it is deemed inadequate and unable to meet the explanations of the laws.
In the jury system, the jurors are the ones that decide whether a person is guilty or not. As such, the judge as to adhere to the ruling of the jurors before proceeding to make their sentencing. They also have to consider the recommendation of the jury in their verdict.
Conventional Jury Nullification
Conventional jury nullification refers to the cases in which the theory decides to ignore the evidence that is provided against the defender and acquit them (Sanders, 2008). In such cases, they believe that the law is strict and ought not to be followed in the exact manner. This notion helps to criticize the Positive law theory. The law can only work when the subjects agree with the laws and can attest to its validity. There are several cases in which the Jurors have resorted to nullifying cases regardless of the evidence provided because they do not agree with the law. For instance, a jury may decide to acquit a person who was guilty of committing murder, especially when they believe that the provocation was called for. The law dictates harsh punishment for murder victims. Once the jury finds them guilty, the judge has to provide the sentences within the constitution. As such, the jury decides to acquit the person from their benches. Legislators have to pass laws that support the interest of the people that they serve. Failure to do so result in the jurors failing to follow the laws and acquit the offenders.
The juror’s behaviour also determines the case of conventional nullification. Jurors can consent to be recorded while making their decisions. The video recorded helps to show their behaviour and stance on the matter. For instance, a jury may acquit a person with a deteriorating mental state when the law does not provide it. A crime of passion has also caused different behaviours among the jurors. Psychologists believe that crimes of passion are associated with mental disorders, especially when they occur in the act of the offense without prior deliberation. Thus, many criminals have resorted to pleading for a crime for passion for playing a victim of their brain turning on them. Conventional nullification takes power from the judges and the law alike. The jurors use natural laws to come to the right conclusion. They can decide to acquit the person because the law of nature deems it not fit for the individual to pay for the crimes even when they are guilty. A juror can decide to acquit a man who is guilty of murdering a person who raped his daughter or family members. Once the jurors believe that the crime is justified, they can decide to acquit the individual.
The jurors also decide to acquit a person based on the seriousness of the crime (Burns, 2017). The rate of conventional nullification in hefty crimes is less than in minor crimes. The jury can decide to pardon the individual that has performed the minor offenses, especially when they are the first-time offenders and the record may tarnish their name for the rest of their lives. They decide on the severity of the punishment in relation to the crime committed. Employees consider criminal records when hiring a person. As such, finding someone guilty for a minor crime and having them labelled offenders for the rest of their lives is likely to do more damages. Jurors of peers understand the position of the suspect and how the impact of their decisions on the rest of their lives. Showing mercy or leniency is likely to help their peer later in life.
Jurors are sometimes denied information that can make them show mercy to the suspect. In civil crimes, especially in tort claims, the defendant’s insurance coverage is not disclosed because it can result in the jury showing mercy, especially when they realize that the defendant does not have any insurance cover and will settle the amount decided by the court from their pocket. Similarly, jurors are sometimes denied information on other cases that the defendant is being tried for, especially when they are tried separately. They may also be denied access to past criminal records, especially when the defendant committed them when they were still minors. The court has to stick to the matters of the case in the court to prevent the guilty from making a decision based on information that is not directly related to the case. The law of reasoning determines the decision that the jurors are likely to reach. They mostly have to factor in the moral aspect of the crime and how it is going to impact the life of the suspect.
Importance of Jury System
The jury system promotes check and balance (Cornwell & Hans, 2009). There is a strong balance of power between the judiciary, executive, and legislators. The judiciary can overturn the laws that have been passed by the legislators or orders given by the executive that is deemed unconstitutional. The system ensures that all arms of the government have the same powers, which are kept in check. Juror of peers ensures that culprit has people they relate to deciding whether they are guilty or innocent before allowing the judge to hand the verdict. The jury system promotes a strong judiciary as the arm of the government.
It also prevents tyranny in courts. Tyranny exists when much power is vested in one ruler. In courtrooms, the judge is the rule, and the constitutions have to ensure that their power is controlled. Tyrants can threaten people and make them do things their way. In the jury system, the judge does not control the decision of the jurors. Once the jurors nullify a case, it does not matter whether the judge believes that the suspect is guilty of the offense. The jury can also deliberately rule that a person is innocent regardless of the proof that is provided, and the judge can still not overturn their decision. In natural law theory, this benefit of the jury system ensures that every citizen is treated the same. They have the ability to prevent one person from having sovereign power in court. However, some people can drop their right to a jury and proceed directly to trial. In such cases, they gamble with their fate and leave it upon the judge to decide their guilt and sentencing as well. The Jury system helps to prevent the judge from having the two powers. They interpret the law and provide the punishment that is worth the crime committed.
The jury system ensures that the citizens are part of the various branches of the government. The jurors are selected from the public and have to make the decision. Any citizen can be called to jury duty and obey the court directive. They become part of the governance in the justice system and help victims or suspects to get justice (Chernoff & Kadane, 2012). The jury makes it possible for the voice of the people to be heard. The judge has to obey the ruling that has been given by the jurors and adhere to it.
Citizens that are called for jury duty take the opportunity to learn about the jury system. They receive their letters and start the preparations to report to the court and report to their duties. They are informed of what is expected of them and asked to take their jury duty once the two parties and the judge select them. Learning about the judicial system is crucial for all citizens since they may get in trouble with the law in the future. They can also inform their relatives and friends about the system and how it works.
The jury system is put in place to promote peaceful conflict resolution. The fate of the suspect is left for the jurors of their peers. The jurors adhere to the laws and ensure that they make the right decision based on the evidence provided and their law of reasoning. They are allowed to debate among themselves in a private room and reach a verdict. They also take part in the sentencing by offering the recommendation to the judge.
The US constitution system provides everybody with a right to a juror of their peers. The jurors are selected from the citizens that have been summoned to report for their jury duty. Attorneys from the two parties and a judge selects the juror to ensure that there is no disparity. Jurors have the right to decide whether a person is guilty or not guilty based on the evidence that is provided before the court. The jurors are allowed to make any decisions that they deem fit regardless of the evidence that has been provided by the court. Jury nullification refers to cases in which jurors have acquitted a suspect even based on the evidence provided. Legal theories can help to explain the decisions of the jurors and the directions that they have taken in their verdict. Natural law theory allows jurors to deliberate on the validity of the law and the punishment of the crime before they make the decision to acquit the suspect. Positive law theory is based on the sovereign and the command that they pass down to their subjects. Jurors have their minds and questions the validity of the law before making their verdict. Marxist theory is based on properties and how they gave rise to laws and states. Realist law theory put the power on the judges’ hand since they are the ones who execute the laws. However, in the jury system, the power of the judges is controlled by the jurors. Conventional jury nullification refers to cases in which jurors acquit a suspect even when there is overwhelming evidence against them. It mostly occurs when the jurors believe that the law is too strict and should be avoided. It shows the power of the people on the law and their morality. Jurors also consider the aspect of the crime that is not enshrined in the law. Conventional jury nullification is rampant in minor crimes. There is some information that is not disclosed in the courtroom to prevent Conventional jury nullification from occurring. The jury system is very efficient and important to the people of the US. It promotes democracy and involvement in the governance of the country. People who are called for jury duties get to learn about the justice system. It promotes peaceful resolution of conflict since the jury of peers reaches the verdict. The system helps to prevent tyranny in the courtroom and enhances the check and balance system. The citizens help to keep the court in order and control the power of the judges.