JUDGE ASKING QUESTIONS OF WITNESSES
From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
CRIMINAL JURY TRIAL; Minn. Evid. R. 614 (b) does allow a judge to ask questions of a witness. CRIMINAL JURY TRIAL; Minn. Evid. R. 614 (b) does allow a judge to ask questions of a witness. However, in a criminal jury trial, the judge must be extremely careful about and avoid asking questions of a state’s witness that could be construed as aiding the state in proof of its case. The state has the burden of proving all of the elements of the crime charged. The judge should not ask a question that assists the state in proving an element. For example the prosecutor forgets to ask a question to establish venue. The judge asks one of the state’s witnesses what county the defendant’s acts occurred in. The judge, however, must be careful to “ ‘always be calmly judicial, dispassionate and impartial. He should seriously avoid all appearances of advocacy as to those questions which are ultimately to be submitted to the jury. In a court trial the trial judge has somewhat more latitude in asking questions of the state’s witnesses.
- State v. Ostrem, 520 N.W.2d 426 (Minn.App.,1994); State v. Scott, 501 N.W.2d 608 (Minn.,1993). Minn. R. Evid. 614 (b), But see State v. Rasmussen, 128 N.W.2d 289.
- U.S. v. Slone, 833 F.2d 595.