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PRELIMINARY INSTRUCTIONS - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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PRELIMINARY INSTRUCTIONS

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

IF YOU ARE IN A COURTROOM WITH AN ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE DISPLAY SYSTEM – DISPLAY THE FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS ON THE MONITORS


Judge has a choice of two standard preliminary instructions to read:
A. Option one is CrimJig 1.02A the “Original Version”
B. Option two is CrimJig 1.02B the “Plain Language Version”
Both versions are set out below


CRIMJIG 1.02A
INSTRUCTION TO THE JURY BEFORE TRIAL BEGINS (ORIGINAL)

It is important that you, members of the jury, be able to hear and see everything that takes place during the trial. If you have any difficulty hearing or understanding what a witness is saying, or if a witness or an attorney should block your view, raise your hand immediately so that we can correct the problem.

This trial is about to begin. During the trial you are going to hear the testimony of several witnesses. You will have to make judgments about the credibility and weight of their testimony. Be patient, and listen carefully to the testimony of all the witnesses. Keep it all in mind until you have heard all the evidence. As you listen to the witnesses, you should take note of such matters as the witnesses' interest or lack of interest in the outcome of the case; ability and opportunity to know, remember, and tell the facts; their experience, frankness, and sincerity, or the lack thereof; the reasonableness or unreasonableness of their testimony in light of all the other evidence; and any other factors that bear on the question of believability and credibility. In the last analysis, you should rely on your own experience, judgment, and common sense.

You may take notes during the trial, but you should not feel required to do so. The most important thing is to give full attention to the testimony as you hear it.

You should keep an open mind about all the evidence until the end of the trial, until you have heard the final arguments of the attorneys, and until I have instructed you in the law. Evidence is what the witnesses say and any exhibits submitted to you. What the attorneys say is not evidence. However, you should listen attentively to any statements the attorneys make. Those statements are made so that you can better understand the testimony.

During the trial, an objection may be made to some evidence, and I may sustain or overrule the objection and direct that a question not be asked or answered. You should not speculate about what the possible answer would have been. If I instruct you during the trial to disregard some statement that a witness has made, then you must disregard it.

There are things you should not do during this trial. You are not investigators. You are not to go out to do any looking, and you are not to ask people about this matter. Above all, you must not talk to anyone who is involved, the lawyers, or the witnesses. Do not do your own investigation. Do not ask people about this case. Do not visit any of the locations mentioned in the trial. Do not research anything about the case, including the issues, evidence, parties, witnesses, location, or the law, through any form of written, print, electronic or Internet media..

You should not discuss the case among yourselves. At the end of the trial, you will have as much time as you need to discuss it, but that is at the end and not during the trial.

When you go home during the trial, your family and friends will be curious as to what you are doing. You may tell them you are sitting as a juror in a criminal case, and that is all you should tell them.

You do not have to stay away from people and refuse to speak to them. Do whatever you wish, but do not talk about this case, and do not talk at all to anyone involved in it. Do not read about this case in the newspapers or listen to news about it on radio or television. Do not e-mail, blog, tweet, text or post anything to your Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites about this trial. Do not visit any “chat rooms” where this case may be discussed.

[Make a mental note of the seat in which you are now sitting, and please keep that seat throughout this trial.]


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CRIMJIG 1.02B
INSTRUCTIONS TO THE JURY BEFORE TRIAL BEGINS (PLAIN LANGUAGE)

How to act as a jury member

Now a few words about your conduct as jurors:
Do not let outsiders influence you.
Do not discuss this case with other jury members during the trial.
You will have plenty of time to do this at the end of the trial, once you have all the evidence, and I have sent you to the jury room with my instructions and the verdict forms.
Do not talk to anyone involved in this case, the defendant, the lawyers, or the witnesses.
If anyone tries to discuss this case with you outside the courtroom, report this to me.
When you go home during the trial, do not talk to your family, friends, or others about the case. You may tell them you are a juror on a criminal case and that is all that you should tell them. Do not report your experiences as a juror while the trial and deliberations are going on. Do not e-mail, blog, tweet, text or post anything to your Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites about this trial. Do not visit any “chat rooms” where this case may be discussed.
Do not read or listen to news reports about the case.
Do not do your own investigation. Do not ask people about this case. Do not visit any of the locations mentioned in the trial. Do not research anything about the case, including the issues, evidence, parties, witnesses, location, or the law, through any form of written, print, electronic or Internet media.
Keep an open mind until you have heard or seen all of the evidence.
Remember you cannot consider anything you hear or learn about this case outside this courtroom.
If you do not follow these instructions, you may jeopardize the trial. This may require the whole trial to be redone and we will have to start over.
[Please keep the same chair throughout the trial. When reporting for jury duty in the morning and returning to the courthouse after lunch, report directly to the jury room. Do not linger in the hallways. Use the restrooms in the jury room rather than the public restrooms.]


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CRIM 3.02 PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE The defendant is presumed innocent of the charge made against him, and that presumption abides with the defendant unless and until the defendant has been proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That defendant is on trial and has been brought before the court by the ordinary processes of the law should not be considered by you as in any way suggesting guilt. The burden of proving guilt is on the state. The defendant does not have to prove his innocence.


CRIM 3.03 PROOF BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is such proof as ordinarily prudent men and women would act upon in their most important affairs. A reasonable doubt is a doubt based upon reason and common sense. It does not mean a fanciful or capricious doubt, nor does it mean beyond all possibility of doubt.


NON-JIG DEFINITION AND EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE.

Things that are Evidence. Your decision must be based upon the evidence presented in court. The following things are evidence and may be used by you in reaching your decision:

  • Any testimony given by witnesses under oath in court;
  • Any documents or other tangible things received as exhibits; and
  • Any fact that the lawyers agree or stipulate to or that I tell you to accept.

Things that are NOT Evidence. Nothing else is evidence. Accordingly, the following things are not evidence and may not be considered by you in reaching your decision.

  • The arguments, questions, or statements of the lawyers are not evidence.
  • Objections to questions are not evidence.
  • Testimony that I instructed you to disregard is not evidence.
  • Anything you saw or hear outside the courtroom is not evidence.


OPTIONAL: ADD ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS HERE


OPTIONAL: ADD ELEMENTS OF CHARGED OFFENSES


OPTIONAL: There are several final comments I would like to make:

1. Remember, you must keep an open mind about all the evidence until the end of the trial, until you have heard the final arguments of the attorneys, and until I have instructed you as to the law which you should apply. At the end of the trial I will provide to each of you a copy of the final jury instructions so you can read along with me as I instruct you.
2. Notepads and pencils will be provided. However, when court is not in session, your notepads must be left on your chair.
3. Court Schedule: Court hours will normally be from 9:00 am until noon and from 1:30 until 4:30 or 5:00 pm. During the trial we will finish our courtroom day no later than 5:00 pm. We will ordinarily take one 15 to 20 minute recess during the morning and another during the afternoon. If you need a break at any other time, please raise your hand and ask for a short recess.
a. Your mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks will be spent in the jury deliberation room. However, each morning and after the lunch break when you report back to court you will meet in the main jury assembly room and from there the bailiffs will escort you back to court. I do that because most mornings at 8:30 a.m. and at 1:00 p.m. I am handling other court matters or the attorneys and I are here in court working on various legal matters.
4. You may have water, milk, coffee or soft drinks in the jury box if you wish. Please don’t bring any red-colored drinks into the courtroom because spills can stain the carpet.
5. Note passing by the judge – From time to time you may see me pass a note to the clerk or the bailiff or they may pass a note to me. I will try to keep that to a minimum so as not to disrupt the proceedings. However, that is the only way for me to communicate with my staff and them with me during the proceedings. You should not guess or draw any inference one way or another should you see that occur. Chances are it has nothing to do with this trial.
6. From time to time it will be necessary for me to discuss legal matters with the attorneys outside the hearing of the jury. Please be patient with us and do not speculate as to the nature of the matters that we are discussing. (Demonstrate the white noise feature)
7. Delays – If it becomes necessary for me to take a longer than normal recess I will do my best to keep you informed of the delay.
8. The bailiff's are seated to your ________________________. During the trial if you have questions or requests, or if you need to speak with the court, communicate your request to the bailiff.
9. Would any one prefer to sit closer to the witness stand to accommodate any hearing difficulties? Finally, please make a mental note of where you are seated. That will be your seat for the remainder of the trial.