A plan introduced by state Rep. Beau LaFave with bipartisan support would require Michigan judges to fully inform jurors of their authority to set aside unjust laws.
LaFave, of Iron Mountain, said many people who serve on juries do not realize they have the right to acquit someone who has technically broken the law if they feel a guilty verdict would have an unfair result.
“Jurors have every right to judge the quality of the law, they just don’t realize it,” LaFave said. “We must fully inform the people serving on our juries so they understand their authority to analyze the facts of the case before them and vote their conscience.”
For example, LaFave said juries in the 1850s used this practice to protest the Fugitive Slave Act by refusing to convict runaway slaves and the people who were charged for assisting them. In modern times, a jury might go this route in instances of domestic abuse or self-defense.
House Bill 6277 requires a judge to clearly instruct the jury that even if the state has proven all of the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury may find the defendant not guilty if a guilty verdict would yield an unjust result.
The legislation was referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.