Did the jury understand their instructions?

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2020 | Wrongful Conviction |

Their inexperience is part of what makes a jury valuable. The jury has nothing to gain or lose from the verdict, and jurors have very little experience with the criminal system. Ideally, jurors do not know anyone involved in the trial, and they can give an objective opinion on the case.

While their inexperience is a tremendous asset, it can also be a liability. The jury depends on the instructions they receive along the way as well as information from the people involved in the trial to guide them in making the correct decision.

These are some of the most common reasons a jury does not understand their instructions.

Unclear language

Many people are not comfortable speaking up when they need more explanation. The more intimidating the situation is, the less likely someone will be to ask for clarification.

The courtroom is one of those intimidating situations. It does not take much for a juror to look around and realize the power in the room. Between the judge, the attorneys and the other jurors, it can be easy for a juror to feel out of place.

When jury instructions are hard to understand, the verdict can be in the hands of someone who is not only unfamiliar with the criminal justice system but who also do not know what that system expects of them. Jurors with unclear instructions cannot give a knowledgeable verdict.

Applying the instructions

One of the first skills a lawyer learns in school is how to apply the rule to the case. The concept is covered so consistently and frequently used that it can be easy to forget that jurors may not have the same skill. Jurors need to know, not only what the instructions are, but also how to use them.

When the jury from your case goes to consider how to decide, they need to have clear instructions on the rules and how to apply those rules to what they learned about the case. If there is a breakdown on either end, it can lead to a jury error because of the instructions.


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