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It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. It is the duty of the court to instruct the jury as to the law; and it is the duty of the jury to follow the law, as it is laid down by the court. This is the modern rule of the jury as the trier of fact.
O. B. Douglas was arrested and indicted for the crimes of criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of handcuffs after white police officers made a traffic stop of the vehicle in which Douglas, an African-American, and his friends, all African-Americans, were riding. The court heard a motion to suppress the stop and determined that it was not pretextual and had not exceeded the scope of proper conduct in halting the vehicle and questioning its occupants. Douglas extensively encouraged the jury to nullify the case against him, arguing that the stop was racially motivated. The court, at the request of the People, gave an instruction which by charging that, while the credibility of each and every witness was for the jury to determine, the lawfulness of police conduct in stopping the automobile in which Douglas was a passenger was not a question of fact for consideration, sought to discourage the jury from engaging in a nonlegally sanctioned function in reaching its verdict(s).
Are the People entitled to a jury instruction which affirmatively states that the propriety of search and seizure is beyond the jury's province to decide?
The court held that People are entitled to a jury instruction which affirmatively states that the propriety of a search and seizure is beyond the jury's province to decide where the court determined that the search and seizure was not improper, but the defense summation posited the African-American defendant was "set up", thereby inviting the jury, comprised largely of African-Americans, to acquit based on the stop and seizure issues and effectively nullifying any finding that the People have proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, the elements of the crimes submitted to the jury for consideration. The duty of juries in criminal cases is to take the law from the court and apply that law to the facts as they find them to be from the evidence. Jury nullification, which is a violation of a juror's oath to apply the law as instructed by the court, is logically incompatible with applying the law and trial courts have a mandated duty to prevent improper and impermissive nullification conduct. Here, by charging that, while the credibility of each and every witness is for the jury to determine, the lawfulness of police conduct in stopping the automobile in which Douglas was a passenger is not a question of fact for consideration, this court sought to discourage the jury from engaging in a nonlegally sanctioned function in reaching its verdict.