New Hampshire’s jury nullification law reads, in relevant part: “In all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defense to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy."
There is nothing novel about the principle and practice of jury nullification, which dictates that citizen juries have the right and authority to rule both on the facts of a case, and the validity of a given law. This is widely recognized in judicial precedents in both American history and in Anglo-Saxon common law dating back to the Magna Carta (or earlier). At the time of the American founding it was well and widely understood that the power of citizen juries – both grand and petit – was plenary, and that their chief function was to force the government to prove its case against a defendant – and the validity of the law in question.
In contemporary America, however, trial by jury has been all but abolished in practice. Reviewing recent Supreme Court rulings, legal commentator Adam Liptak of the New York Times observes that in its just-completed term, the High Court “has turned its attention away from criminal trials, which are vanishingly rare, and toward the real world of criminal justice, in which plea bargains are the norm and harsh sentences commonplace.” (Emphasis added.)