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A jury defies all logic and common sense and comes back with verdict contrary to the evidence. It's not a Joker Jury, Jury of the Damned or a Kangaroo Court -- a group of regular citizens has come back with the wrong decision.

Usually, a not-guilty verdict is intended to demonstrate the jury's outright gullibility (or intimidation), whereas an unfair guilty verdict indicates they were unable to see past some fear or prejudice against the defendant.

In real life (principally in the USA) the "voire dire" process is meant to ensure that juries are made up of fair and impartial members who will treat the case seriously. In the UK and Commonwealth, it can include testing the compentancy of potential jurors. Still, a number of high-profile cases with unexpected outcomes have led to juries being described as "twelve people too stupid to get out of jury duty."

Occasionally, a surprise acquittal can be due to a phenomenon known as "jury nullification", in which the jurors return a "not guilty" verdict even though the prosecution has in fact proven their case. This is usually because the jury feels that extenuating circumstances justify the crime, or occasionally because they feel the law is simply wrong. (The legal system says that it is not the jury's place to decide what the law should be, but to come to a conclusion as to whether the law as it is currently written has or has not been broken. Changing laws requires it to go through the governmental process that was designed for the purpose.) Defense attorneys are generally not allowed to argue in favor of nullification, but some will try to suggest that the law is unfair or overly harsh, implying that the jury should nullify without requesting it directly.

No Real Life Examples, Please. It seldom ends well.

Examples of Common Nonsense Jury include:


Comics

  • Gotham City, being the poster child and home to the Trope Namer of Joker Immunity, means any criminal regardless of whether or not they have a legally-mitigating mental disorder can manipulate their way into Arkham Asylum.
    • The Great White Shark was dangerously savvy enough to have his case transferred to Gotham City to skate on an Insanity Defense for embezzling millions from the life savings of his company's clients. The presiding judge lampshades the jury's idiocy, but takes comfort in knowing the white-collar "Shark" will be a mere guppy among Arkham's worst hardcore criminals.

Film

  • Liar Liar has Fletcher's secretary relate a friend's story of the "burglar sues the homeowner after B&E goes bad and wins" predicament to point out how he and other Amoral Attorneys are all alike. Fletcher insists he's not: if he were the burglar's attorney, he would've gotten her friend for twice the money she lost.

Literature

  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch demonstrates the accuser Mayella's injuries were caused by a left-handed individual while the defendant, Tom Robinson paralyzed his left arm in an accident. The jury of that time in the Deep South still convicted him, refusing to consider the idea that a black person could ever be Wrongly Accused of a crime.
    • But their decision wasn't immediate, and that was important.
  • Due to the political stances of half the court, the court-martial of Pavel Young in Field of Dishonor, refused to convict him of any of the charges that would have gotten him executed, even though their logic for doing so was explicitly declared invalid by standing court rulings. The aftermath of this caused the plot of the second half of the book.

Live Action TV

  • A frequent occurance on Law and Order. In "Blue Bamboo" (S5-3), a woman stalked and killed the Japanese businessman who pimped her out as a sex slave to his clients. Her lawyer argued Battered Woman Syndrome but the prosecution proved her testimony was plagiarized from textbooks on Battered women Syndrome and since she was no longer in Japan (and thus completely free from the victim's grasp), her murder was revenge-motivated. The judge instructs the jury not to consider the Japanese's somewhat misogynistic culture in their verdict, but they acquit her anyway.
  • On The Practice a drug dealer claimed self defense in stabbing (7 times) an addict he'd threatened to murder over his mounting drug debts. His long criminal record and the complete lack of any supporting evidence prompt him to try and strangle the DA in open court in an unsuccessful bid to provoke a mistrial and delay the inevitable (the judge even refuses to grant it because he knows the guy's going down for murder). The not guilty verdict prompts the DA to break down into a tirade about juror stupidity.
    • Another episode features the judge berating the jury for their decision to award a ridiculous amount of money to the plaintiff in a dubious fraud lawsuit, before exercising his power to reduce the amount.
  • The jury for Clay Davis's trial in The Wire, who are seemingly under the impression that massive campaign finance fraud ceases to be illegal if you give away all the money.
  • In Blackadder Goes Forth, while we don't know the details of the case, presents us with a nice example:

 Blackadder: "I remember Massingbird's most famous case: the Case of the Bloody Knife. A man was found next to a murdered body. He had the knife in his hand, 13 witnesses had seen him stab the victim, and when the police arrived, he said "I'm glad I killed the bastard." Massingbird not only got him off; he got him knighted in the New Year's Honours List and the relatives of the victim had to pay to have the blood washed out of his jacket!".

  • The second episode of Harry's Law featured a woman on trial for committing armed robbery, with eyewitness testimony and video evidence. The defense Harry presented basically amounted to "Yeah, she did it, and she wasn't insane or senile, but she's an old woman". It worked. With only slightly more justification, the first episode had a young man get off on drug possession charges (and a corresponding "third strike" prison sentence) through the argument that as he was on his way to college, the "greater good" of society would be better served by not convicting.
  • In the Sherlock episode "The Reichenbach Fall" Moriarty stands trial for attempting to steal the Crown Jewels. He was caught red handed at the scene, there are plenty of witnesses and good quality security camera footage. At trial he offers no defense and the judge tells the jury that they have no choice but to convict. They return a verdict of 'not guilty'. Moriarty threatened to kill the jurors' families unless they acquited him

Theater

  • Twelve Incompetent Men (and Women!) by Ian Mc Wethy[1] is a short play based entirely on this premise. They have footage of the defendant committing his crime on camera. He even shouts out his name in the footage. The play starts with a judge saying that if it took more than thirty minutes for the jury to deliberate, he would be very disappointed in them. Needless to say, the verdict came back innocent.

Web Comics

  • Played with in Order of the Stick when Haley (via Bilingual Bonus) points out that the innocent verdict they recieve when being tried for destroying a mystical Gate is erroneous because, regardless of the surrounding circumstances, they are actually guilty of the charge. It turns out that the entire trial was a sham orchestrated to get them to the city, and the "jury" was in fact Roy's father using an illusion.

Web Original

  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, it proved almost impossible to convict Ambrosia of any crime, even when she was caught red handed with both video and DNA evidence, because her lawyer managed to disqualify any woman who had a chance of landing on the jury. Her pheremone-driven power to cause all men to view her as attractive and friendly did the rest...

Western Animation

  • The Boondocks plays it for laughs. In one episode, an intern for the Black Panthers was sentenced to death for the murder of a cop despite the real killer leaving the gun with the receipt attached, his prints on the gun and shouting to everyone around that he was the murderer.
  • Uncle Ruckus served on a jury that convicted a blind black man accused of shooting (from 50 yards away) three white women with a rifle and delighted in shouting racist threats (complete with a hangman's noose) from his seat in the jury.

Notes

  1. Yeah, a pun on 12 Angry Men
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