Offenses Against the Public Essay
Jury tampering refers to the illegal practice of attempting to change the outcome of a trial by altering the composition or influencing the decisions of a jury. Since trial by jury is a fundamental aspect of the United States justice system, many have attempted to take advantage of it to benefit from a more favorable verdict. Jury tampering may take a variety of different forms. Most common approaches involve attempts to bribe or threaten a jury into changing their decision or otherwise interfering with the integrity of the judicial process. More recently, the system of justice administration witnessed the birth of another type of jury tampering: the . They are individuals who engage in illegal behavior so as to be selected to serve on a jury and attempt to influence the process single-handedly from within (Gershman, 2005).
Clearly, such practices are inadmissible as they constitute obstruction of justice (Samaha, 2013). Generally, obstruction of justice can manifest itself in several other crimes such as witness tampering, witness retaliation, bribery of judicial officials, and destruction of evidence, to name a few. All of these activities are outlawed by the federal law, namely, Title 18 of the , the criminal and penal code of the country (Doyle, 2014). Jury tampering, in particular, is covered in paragraph 1503 of the Title, prohibiting the use of force, threat, and other corrupt methods to intimidate jurors or legal officers. The punishment for committing this crime depends on its specific circumstances: if a juror has been killed, then the punishment for the perpetrator will be determined by sections 1111 and 1112 of the Title. Otherwise, jury tampering may result in a prison sentence for up to 10 or 20 years, depending on whether a killing has been attempted or not (, n.d.).
However, there is one area in the jury tampering problem that presents a morally and legally ambiguous area that is, the issue of jury nullification. This term refers to the situation in which the jury acquits the defendant even if there is compelling evidence to believe that they have committed the illegal act. In such a case, the jury does not believe that the defendant should be punished for the act. Jury nullification has a long history in the as it originated in the . Its main aim is to allow citizens to judge the morality and justice of the law itself: in the past, juries refused to punish people for violation of the Fugitive Slave Act (Fully Informed Jury Association, n.d.). However, attempts by activists to distribute pamphlets and brochures informing people about this right have been regarded by the court as jury tampering, which has raised many questions regarding the ethics of such a definition, especially in the light of the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech (Fully Informed Jury Association, 2015).
Thus, the federal law prohibits jury tampering as an instance of obstruction of justice. While it is clear why such practices as bribery and blackmail constitute jury tampering, there seems to be a disagreement as to whether informing citizens about jury nullification can also be classified as obstruction of justice.