DA candidates weigh in: Jury Nullification

CHENANGO COUNTY – Today, Chenango County voters are tasked with an all important civic duty: casting their ballots in the primary election, setting the dormant wheels of democracy into motion and stirring up contestants that will play integral rolls throughout the county for the next four years.

One of the most important factors to be decided by voters today will be who will represent the Republican line for the County District Attorney seat on the November ballot, a position held by unopposed incumbent Joseph McBride for the last 16 years.

McBride faces first time competition from opponent Zachary Wentworth, a Chenango County based public defender who tossed his hat into the ring seemingly out of nowhere earlier in 2015.

While the two candidates are running campaign platforms of change versus experience, the pair are steadfast in their opinions on several topics – including the ever controversial issue of jury nullification.

The topic of jury nullification can be somewhat taboo, and the general public's unfamiliarity is more than likely by design.

In the U.S. legal system – regardless of evidence – if a jury feels a law is unjust, it is permitted to “nullify” the law rather than finding someone guilty.

In other words, jury nullification is a jury’s way of saying, 'by the letter of the law, the defendant is guilty – but we also disagree with that law, so we vote to not punish the accused.' Ultimately, a 'not guilty' verdict rendered serves as an acquittal.

Early in our history, judges often informed jurors of their nullification right. Our first Chief Justice, John Jay, told jurors: "You have a right to take upon yourselves to judge [both the facts and law]."

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