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JURY INSTRUCTIONS IMMEDIATELY BEFORE DELIBERATION - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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JURY INSTRUCTIONS IMMEDIATELY BEFORE DELIBERATION

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

A. General Prohibition

A Judge cannot tell jury they have duty to reach a verdict:

Rather than stressing the duty to decide the case, the juries are admonished only to consult and deliberate with a view towards reaching an agreement consistent with their individual judgments. The emphasis is on further consideration of the evidence by all the jurors, and any juror, whether in the minority or majority, is invited to re-examine his views and change his opinion if he is convinced it is in error. But the thrust of the proposed charge is a positive one that no juror should surrender his honest conviction simply because of his fellow jurors’ opinion or just to reach a verdict. Finally and most important, the standards omit any suggestion that if the jury does not decide the case, necessarily some other jury will have to discharge the responsibility which the first jury failed to fulfill.[1]

Important Caveat

Judges are not required to inform juries that they have the option to hang:

Judges are not required to spell out to jurors that a deadlock is a permissible result.[2]

B. Offense Specific Instructions

Instructions on particular kinds of evidence, especially inferences, should be avoided:

Aside from being unnecessary, instructions on particular inferences are undesirable in that they tend to inject argument into the judge’s charge and lengthen it unnecessarily.[3]

Theory of the case instructions: No individual fact patterns if substance of theory is “contained in the court’s charge.”[4]

C. Instructions on Lesser-Included Offenses

  • Measured by the elements of the offense not particular facts of the case;
  • Lesser degree of same offense; or
  • The lesser crime is necessarily committed in committing the greater crime;
  • There’s a rational basis from the record to give the lesser-included offense.[5]
  1. State v. Martin, 211 N.W.2d 765 (Minn. 1973).
  2. State v. Peterson, 530 N.W.2d 243 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995).
  3. State v. Olson, 482 N.W.2d 212 (Minn. 1992).
  4. State v. Molin, 288 N.W.2d 232 (Minn. 1979).
  5. See State v. Coleman, 373 N.W.2d 777 (Minn. 1985).