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By the 12th century, common law courts in England began using juries for more than administrative duties.
Juries were composed primarily of "laymen" from the local community.
Jury nullification may also occur in civil suits, in which the verdict is generally a finding of liability or lack of liability (rather than a finding of guilty or not guilty).
However, for a prosecutor to nullify a law in this context would require negating the presumption of innocence.
In most modern Western legal systems, however, judges often instruct juries to act only as "finders of facts," whose role it is to determine the veracity of the evidence presented, the weight accorded to the evidence, to apply that evidence to the law as explained by the judge, and to reach a verdict; but not to question the law or decide what it says.
Similarly, juries are routinely cautioned by courts and some attorneys not to allow sympathy for a party or other affected persons to compromise the fair and dispassionate evaluation of evidence.
These instructions are criticized by advocates of jury nullification.
They provided a somewhat efficient means of dispute resolution with the benefit of supplying legitimacy.
The general power of juries to decide on verdicts was recognised in the English Magna Carta No free man shall be captured, and or imprisoned, or disseised of his freehold, and or of his liberties, or of his free customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against him by force or proceed against him by arms, but by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.