High-end software for improving digital images on a computer screen, called Adobe® Lightroom II, includes a slider button allowing selective lightening of the darkest areas or darkening of the lightest areas. This re-integrating or protecting of portions of a photograph resembles the conduct of individuals, governments and institutions that we call jury nullification, bailout, and cover-up, respectively. I will provide examples to demonstrate.
           Allegedly, a couple of robbers barged in on a man and woman in a Schaumburg, Illinois motel room on March 16th 2010. When one intruder shot him, the man in the room – who may himself have broken the law by patronizing a prostitute and carrying an unlicensed firearm – fired back a fatal bullet.

            Here is what a reader commented in response to the Chicago Tribune article:

            "Although he was probably participating in a criminal act himself (consorting with a prostitute) I sincerely hope the unnamed Minnesotan who returned fire in self-defense and killed the armed robber does not find himself facing charges, and recovers quickly and fully from his wounds."

Mike G. on March 16, 2010 8:35 PM.


            The willingness of a juror holding Mike G’s viewpoint to acquit a person acting in self-defense is an example of jury nullification. A juror in a criminal trial is always allowed to vote a defendant “not guilty” as a matter of conscience or personal identification with the defendant, even if the crime is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Obviously, in my example we do not know yet if self-defense will be established, if the prosecutor will charge the room occupant with a crime, or if the evidence will be sufficient to convict. Whatever the outcome in this particular case, the point is that Mike G. has an exculpatory frame of mind regardless of the evidence. If someone empaneled on a jury voted to acquit based upon the attitude Mike G. expressed here, it would be totally acceptable; it is a fundamental feature of our system of justice. Jury nullification “brings back into the picture” someone who otherwise fell outside the norms of acceptable behavior.


            My other examples require little explaining.  Government “bailouts” redeeming miscreants include our recent funding of banks too big to fail. We rehabilitated them because failure to act risked unacceptable harm to our economy. “Cover-ups” include Toyota’s apparent attempt to shield its corporate reputation by keeping quiet about problems with acceleration or braking; and the Catholic Church seeming to consider it more important to protect a priest than the young boys he was defiling.