Jury instructions, how do they work?

(Study Tips, Dealing With Stress, Maintaining a Social Life, Financial Aid, Internships, Bar Exam, Careers in Law . . . )
TigerBeer
Posts: 178
Joined: Thu Sep 24, 2009 2:00 am

Jury instructions, how do they work?

Postby TigerBeer » Sat Dec 04, 2010 5:41 pm

In a criminal case, let's say the prosecution and the defense both request jury instructions, but neither party's instructions state the law correctly. At that point can the judge reject both instructions and give his own?

Is there any difference in civil cases?

Do the parties always request jury instructions?

I'm just looking for a general overview, I'm only a 1L. My crim/torts/Ks classes often ask the question in terms of how the jury should be instructed, but we've never covered the material directly. Professors seem to have expected that we've absorbed the basic ideas on our own, but I'm still a bit lost.

User avatar
JazzOne
Posts: 2938
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:04 am

Re: Jury instructions, how do they work?

Postby JazzOne » Sat Dec 04, 2010 5:44 pm

TigerBeer wrote:In a criminal case, let's say the prosecution and the defense both request jury instructions, but neither party's instructions state the law correctly. At that point can the judge reject both instructions and give his own?

Is there any difference in civil cases?

Do the parties always request jury instructions?

I'm just looking for a general overview, I'm only a 1L. My crim/torts/Ks classes often ask the question in terms of how the jury should be instructed, but we've never covered the material directly. Professors seem to have expected that we've absorbed the basic ideas on our own, but I'm still a bit lost.

The jury instructions should just state what the law is (e.g., what are the elements of the crime or cause). It's not a trick question. When your professor says, "How should the jury have been instructed?," he just wants to know what point of law was mis-stated to the jury, and what is the correct rule.
Last edited by JazzOne on Sat Dec 04, 2010 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

TigerBeer
Posts: 178
Joined: Thu Sep 24, 2009 2:00 am

Re: Jury instructions, how do they work?

Postby TigerBeer » Sat Dec 04, 2010 5:56 pm

JazzOne wrote:
TigerBeer wrote:In a criminal case, let's say the prosecution and the defense both request jury instructions, but neither party's instructions state the law correctly. At that point can the judge reject both instructions and give his own?

Is there any difference in civil cases?

Do the parties always request jury instructions?

I'm just looking for a general overview, I'm only a 1L. My crim/torts/Ks classes often ask the question in terms of how the jury should be instructed, but we've never covered the material directly. Professors seem to have expected that we've absorbed the basic ideas on our own, but I'm still a bit lost.

The jury instructions should just state what the law is (e.g., what are the elements of the crime or cause). It's not a trick question. When you're professor says, "How should the jury have been instructed?," he just wants to know what point of law was mis-stated to the jury, and what is the correct rule.


OK thanks, just making sure there's not some kind of obvious thing I'm missing here.

User avatar
JazzOne
Posts: 2938
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:04 am

Re: Jury instructions, how do they work?

Postby JazzOne » Sat Dec 04, 2010 5:58 pm

TigerBeer wrote:
JazzOne wrote:
TigerBeer wrote:In a criminal case, let's say the prosecution and the defense both request jury instructions, but neither party's instructions state the law correctly. At that point can the judge reject both instructions and give his own?

Is there any difference in civil cases?

Do the parties always request jury instructions?

I'm just looking for a general overview, I'm only a 1L. My crim/torts/Ks classes often ask the question in terms of how the jury should be instructed, but we've never covered the material directly. Professors seem to have expected that we've absorbed the basic ideas on our own, but I'm still a bit lost.

The jury instructions should just state what the law is (e.g., what are the elements of the crime or cause). It's not a trick question. When you're professor says, "How should the jury have been instructed?," he just wants to know what point of law was mis-stated to the jury, and what is the correct rule.


OK thanks, just making sure there's not some kind of obvious thing I'm missing here.

Most states have model jury instructions. You can probably look them up on Westlaw. Take a look at some of the causes or crimes you've studied, and see how the pattern jury instructions are worded. There are also various special instructions that the jury could receive, but you'll learn a lot more about those when you take evidence.

User avatar
JazzOne
Posts: 2938
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:04 am

Re: Jury instructions, how do they work?

Postby JazzOne » Sat Dec 04, 2010 6:02 pm

The funniest thing about jury instructions is that, in the legal world, we quibble about very precise but abstract ideas like the "reasonable person" or "substantial factor." Even "causation" is tough to define. After all our academic wrangling, the jury instructions are typically pretty general, and the judge is not really allowed to elaborate. So the jurors themselves decide what is a "substantial factor" or a "reasonable person." That's highly amusing to me because we spend so much time defining and complicating those ideas in the legal world, and then we sort of leave it to people's intuition to figure out what the hell we've done.

Basically, whenever we discover something that we cannot figure out as legal academics, we leave it up to the jury. How much doubt is reasonable?

User avatar
denimchickn
Posts: 62
Joined: Tue Nov 30, 2010 11:57 pm

Re: Jury instructions, how do they work?

Postby denimchickn » Sun Dec 05, 2010 12:08 am

--ImageRemoved--

User avatar
beach_terror
Posts: 7256
Joined: Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:01 pm

Re: Jury instructions, how do they work?

Postby beach_terror » Sun Dec 05, 2010 2:41 am

YES on the meme, I opened this thread thinking I'd have to add it in!




Return to “Forum for Law School Students”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: ididntwantsalmon and 7 guests