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RETURN OF VERDICT - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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RETURN OF VERDICT

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

AFTER CLOSING ARGUMENTS

NOTE: After Closing Arguments: See Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03 subd. 11(l) (2006) (“[a]t the conclusion of the arguments the court shall allow the parties an opportunity, outside the presence of the jury and on the record, to make any objections . . .”).


NOTE: I have included a Template for a sample set of Final Instructions that apply to virtually all criminal jury trials. You will need to add additional instructions to fit the circumstances of your case. Print your final instructions as a standalone document so you can distribute copies to jurors to read along with you. I always allow one master copy back in the deliberation room for use by the jurors.

STATE OF MINNESOTA DISTRICT COURT

COUNTY OF SHERBURNE TENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

State of Minnesota, Plaintiff

v.

_________________ Defendant(s)


JURY INSTRUCTIONS

Court File: _____________


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SECTION I.
Instructions Before Attorney Final Arguments

Members of the jury, we have now reached the final stage in the trial of this case, and it becomes my duty to instruct you about the rules of law that govern the particular issues in this case. Duties of Judge and Jury

It is your duty to decide the questions of fact in this case. It is my duty to give you the rules of law you must apply in arriving at your verdict.

You must follow and apply the rules of law as I give them to you, even if you believe the law is or should be different. Deciding questions of fact is your exclusive responsibility. In doing so, you must consider all the evidence you have heard and seen in this trial, and you must disregard anything you may have heard or seen elsewhere about this case.

I have neither by these instructions, nor by any ruling or expression during the trial, intended to indicate my opinion regarding the facts or the outcome of this case. If I have said or done anything that would seem to indicate such an opinion, you are to disregard it.

Presumption of Innocence

The law presumes the defendant is innocent of the charge made. This presumption remains with the defendant unless and until the defendant has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact that the defendant has been brought before the court by the ordinary processes of the law and is on trial 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 innocence.

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.

Direct and Circumstantial Evidence

A fact may be proven by either direct or circumstantial evidence, or by both. The law does not prefer one form of evidence to the other.

A fact is proven by direct evidence when, for example, it is proven by witnesses who testify to what they saw, heard, or experienced or by physical evidence of the fact itself. A fact is proven by circumstantial evidence when its existence can be reasonably inferred from other facts proven in the case.

Rulings on Objections to Evidence

During this trial I have ruled on objections to certain testimony and exhibits. You must not concern yourself with the reasons for the rulings, since they are controlled by rules of law.

By receiving evidence to which objection was made, I did not intend to indicate the weight to be given such evidence. You are not to speculate as to possible answers to questions I did not require to be answered. You are to disregard all evidence I have ordered stricken or have told you to disregard.

Instructions to Be Considered as a Whole

You must consider these instructions as a whole and regard each instruction in the light of all the others. The order in which the instructions are given is of no significance. You are free to consider the issues in any order you wish.

Notes Taken by Jurors

You have been allowed to take notes during the trial. You may take those notes with you to the jury room. You should not consider these notes binding or conclusive, whether they are your notes or those of another juror. The notes should be used as an aid to your memory and not as a substitute for it. It is your recollection of the evidence that should control. You should disregard anything contrary to your recollection that may appear from your own notes or those of another juror. You should not give greater weight to a particular piece of evidence solely because it is referred to in a note taken by a juror.


Masculine or Feminine Form of Pronoun—Singular or Plural Nouns and Pronouns

Whenever I have used the word “he” or “she” in these instructions, you may consider it as applying equally to a man or woman or an entity, such as a corporation. Similarly, the use of the singular of a word may be taken equally to mean the plural.

Statements of Judge and Attorneys

Attorneys are officers of the court. It is their duty to make objections they think proper and to argue their client's cause. However, the arguments or other remarks of an attorney are not evidence.

If the attorneys or I have made or should make any statement as to what the evidence is, which differs from your recollection of the evidence, you should disregard the statement and rely solely on your own memory. If an attorney's argument contains any statement of the law that differs from the law I give you, disregard the statement.

Evaluation of Testimony—Believability of Witnesses

You are the sole judges of whether a witness is to be believed and of the weight to be given a witness's testimony. There are no hard and fast rules to guide you in this respect. In determining believability and weight of a witness’ testimony, you may take into consideration the following things with respect to the witness:

[1] Interest or lack of interest in the outcome of the case,
[2] Relationship to the parties,
[3] Ability and opportunity to know, remember, and relate the facts,
[4] Manner,
[5] Age and experience,
[6] Frankness and sincerity, or lack thereof,
[7] Reasonableness or unreasonableness of their testimony in the light of all the other evidence in the case,
[8] [Any impeachment of the witness's testimony],
[9] In addition, any other factors that bears on believability and weight.

You should rely in the last analysis upon your own experience, good judgment, and common sense.

Expert Testimony

A witness who has special training, education, or experience in a particular science, occupation, or calling, is allowed to express an opinion as to certain facts. In determining the believability and weight to be given such opinion evidence, you may consider:

[1] The education, training, experience, knowledge, and ability of the witness,
[2] The reasons given for the opinion,
[3] The sources of the information,
[4] Factors already given you for evaluating the testimony of any witness.

Such opinion evidence is entitled to neither more nor less consideration by you than any other evidence.

Impeachment

In deciding the believability and weight to be given the testimony of a witness, you may consider evidence of a statement by or conduct of the witness on some prior occasion that is inconsistent with present testimony. Evidence of any prior inconsistent statement or conduct should be considered only to test the believability and weight of the witness's testimony. In the case of the defendant, however, evidence of any statement he or she may have made may be considered by you for all purposes.

ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS IF NECESSARY

I will now instruct you as to the specific crimes with which each of the Defendants has been individually charged.

NAME OF DEFENDANT

Count I.
OFFENSE—Defined
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


OFFENSE—Elements
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS IF NECESSARY


Court’s Comments Before Attorney Final Arguments.

We will now have the final arguments by _______________________________. After the arguments by them have been completed, the Court will then give you some guidelines and rules for your deliberations. As you listen to the arguments, bear in mind the following:

During their final arguments, the attorneys may aim to do several things. First, they will discuss with you what they feel are the true facts or what the evidence discloses about the true facts. Second, they may draw inferences or suggest conclusions or arguments based on those facts. Third, they may discuss their understanding of the applicable law.

You should listen carefully to them as they have given considerable thought to this case. Their final arguments are intended to aid you in understanding the case; in remembering the evidence; in applying the law; and, ultimately, in reaching your final verdict.


Attorney Final Arguments and Court’s Concluding Remarks.

Now, counsel for the State and for the defendant will present their final arguments.

NAME OF PROSECUTOR, you may proceed. NAME OF DEFENSE COUNSEL, you may proceed. PROSECUTOR REBUTTAL ARGUMENT, you may proceed.


(Attorneys Proceed)


NOTE: After Closing Arguments: See Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03 subd. 11(l) (2006) (“[a]t the conclusion of the arguments the court shall allow the parties an opportunity, outside the presence of the jury and on the record, to make any objections . . .”).


SECTION II.
AFTER FINAL ARGUMENTS

Now that the closing arguments are completed, I will give you some final instructions.

The first thing to do upon arriving in your jury deliberation room is to elect the foreperson to preside over your deliberations.

Unanimous Verdict---Duty of Jurors to Discuss

In order for you to return a verdict, whether guilty or not guilty, each juror must agree with the verdict. Your verdict must be unanimous. You should discuss the case with one another, and deliberate with a view to reaching agreement, if you can do so without violence to your individual judgment. You should decide the case for yourself, but only after you have discussed the case with your fellow jurors and have carefully considered their views. You should not hesitate to reexamine your views or to change your opinion if you become convinced it is erroneous; but you should not surrender your honest opinion simply because other jurors disagree or merely in order to reach a verdict.

In arriving at your verdict you shall not permit bias, prejudice, or sympathy to affect your verdict. You should base your verdict entirely upon the evidence that has been received in court, and upon the law that I have given you in these instructions.

If, at any time during the deliberation the jury is separated -- such as for a cigarette break -- deliberation shall cease until all members of the jury are once again present. Once, again, deliberation shall take place only when the full jury is present in the jury room.

SAMPLE OF HOW I READ THE VERDICT FORMS

Rebecca Ann Clark Verdict Forms

As I explained to you earlier, there are three (3) charges against the Defendant Rebecca Ann Clark in this case. There will be six (6) possible forms of verdict in this case. There will be a Guilty verdict form and a Not Guilty verdict form for each of the three (3) individual charges. These verdict forms are self-explanatory. The order in which I read these verdict forms is of no consequence.

Count 1

If you find that the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant Rebecca Ann Clark is guilty of the crime of Conspiracy To Commit a Controlled Substance Crime in the First Degree---Methamphetamine Manufacture you will use this form of verdict:

[READ GUILTY FORM]

If you find that the State has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant Rebecca Ann Clark is guilty of the crime of Conspiracy To Commit a Controlled Substance Crime in the First Degree---Methamphetamine Manufacture you will use this form of verdict:

[READ NOT GUILTY FORM]


Count 2

If you find that the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant Rebecca Ann Clark is guilty of the crime of Controlled Substance Crime in the First Degree---Methamphetamine Manufacture, you will use this form of verdict:

[READ GUILTY FORM]

If you find that the State has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant Rebecca Ann Clark is guilty of the crime of Controlled Substance Crime in the First Degree---Methamphetamine Manufacture, you will use this form of verdict:

[READ NOT GUILTY FORM]

Count 3

If you find that the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant Rebecca Ann Clark is guilty of the crime of Child Endangerment—Exposure to Controlled Substances you will use this form of verdict:

[READ GUILTY FORM]

If you find that the State has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant Rebecca Ann Clark is guilty of the crime of Child Endangerment—Exposure to Controlled Substances you will use this form of verdict:

[READ NOT GUILTY FORM]
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The verdicts are to be signed by the foreperson alone. You will insert the date and hour at which you arrive at the verdict and you will continue in session until you deliver the same in open Court, unless otherwise excused by the Court. When you arrive at a verdict, you will notify the officer in charge, that is the bailiff. The Court will be summoned to receive your verdict no matter at what hour of the day or night you are ready to report. During your deliberations you are not to communicate with members of your family or with other persons, except the bailiff or bailiffs in charge. To them, and them alone, you may make known your wants and desires. After you have retired for your deliberations, if you desire information on any point of law in the case, you may ask the bailiff to bring you back into Court. In addition, you may take your notes with you to the jury room.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in considering this case, remember that you are not partisans or advocates, but that you are judges of the facts. The final test of the quality of your service will lie in the verdict that you return to the Court, and not in the opinions any of you may have as you retire from this case. Have it in mind that you will make a definite contribution to efficient judicial administration if you arrive at a just and proper verdict. To that end the Court will remind you that in your deliberations in the jury room, there can be no triumph except the determination and the declaration of the truth. Remember that this case is important to both sides. It is important in the respect that a person who is guilty of the commission of a crime be brought to justice and be punished. It is equally important that a person who is not guilty of the commission of a crime should not be punished for something they did not do.

This concludes my final instructions.

ALTERNATE JUROR: _________________________, you are the alternate jurors. You are now excused. You may gather your things and leave. I thank you for your service and your patience, and I hope that you will understand that you have contributed to the trial of this case even though you will not deliberate. Check at the Court Administration’s window before you leave. The Court Administration will notify you if you are needed again. Thank you for your service. (Ask alternates to wait – Once jurors retire to deliberate personally acknowledge the alternate jurors).

Counsel, do you wish to call the Court's attention to any errors, omissions or corrections in the instructions?
The Clerk will now swear the bailiffs.
Counsel, if you wish, you may examine the exhibits and other items the jury will be taking into the deliberation room. The Court Administrator and the Bailiff will ensure that the proper exhibits are taken to the deliberation room.
Counsel, I am also requesting that you provide the Court with the telephone numbers where the Court Administrator can reach you during the jury's deliberations.
The Court Administrator will note the time the case is submitted to the jury
[OPTIONAL: Mark a copy of the jury instructions and verdict form as appellant exhibits for court file.]
The jury may retire.

RETURN OF VERDICT

Members of the jury, have you selected a foreperson?
Have you reached a verdict? (Jury Foreperson Answers)
Please hand it to the Bailiff. (Jury Foreperson hands verdict to bailiff. Bailiff hands verdict to Court or Court Administrator, then to Court. Court Administrator reads verdict.)
Does the defendant request that the jury be polled?
(Jury is polled if requested)
(Court thanks the jury for their service)

---Clear the courtroom, except for court reporter and court clerk, and spend a few minutes talking with and thanking the jury panel (off the record)