T hought I’d share with you some actual jury instructions for your reading enjoyment and comment. These are instructions for a domestic Violence case.
Members of the jury: You have heard the evidence and the arguments of counsel. The court and the jury have separate functions: you decide the disputed facts and the court provides the instructions of law. It is your sworn duty to accept these instructions and to apply the law as it is given to you. You are not permitted to change the law, nor to apply your own conception of what you think the law should be.
A criminal case begins with the filing of an indictment. The indictment informs the defendant that he has been charged with an offense. The fact that it was filed may not be considered for any other purpose. The plea of not guilty is a denial of the charge and puts in issue all the essential elements of each offense.
The defendant is presumed innocent until his guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant must be acquitted unless the state produces evidence which convinces you, beyond a reasonable doubt, of every essential element of the offense charged in the indictment.
Reasonable doubt is present when, after you have carefully considered and compared all the evidence, you cannot say you are firmly convinced of the truth of the charge. Reasonable doubt is a doubt based on reason and common sense. Reasonable doubt is not mere possible doubt, because everything relating to human affairs or depending on moral evidence is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof of such character that an ordinary person would be willing to rely and act upon it in the most important of his or her own affairs.
Evidence is all the testimony received from the witnesses including the exhibits admitted during the trial and facts agreed to by counsel, if any, and any facts which the court requires you to accept as true.
Evidence may be direct or circumstantial, or both.
Direct evidence is the testimony given by a witness who has seen or heard the facts to which he testifies. It includes exhibits admitted into evidence during the trial.
Circumstantial evidence is the proof of facts or circumstances by direct evidence from which you may reasonably infer other related or connected facts which naturally and logically follow, according to the common experience of mankind.
To infer, or to make an inference, is to reach a reasonable conclusion of fact which you may, but are not required to, make from other facts which you find have been established by direct evidence. Whether an inference is made rests entirely with you.
Direct evidence and circumstantial evidence are of equal weight.
The evidence does not include the indictment, opening statements or closing arguments of counsel. The opening statements and closing arguments of counsel are designed to assist you. They are not evidence.
Statements that were stricken by the court or which you were instructed to disregard are not evidence and must be treated as though you never heard them.
You must not speculate as to why the court sustained the objection to any question or what the answer to such question might have been. You must not draw any inference or speculate on the truth of any suggestion included in a question that was not answered. You also must not draw any inference or speculate on any change made to, or the omission of, any question that you submitted for a witness.
You are the sole judges of the facts, the credibility of the witnesses and the weight of the evidence.
To weigh the evidence, you must consider the credibility of the witnesses. You will apply the tests of truthfulness which you apply in your daily lives. These tests include the appearance of each witness upon the stand; his or her manner of testifying; the reasonableness of the testimony; the opportunity he or she had to see, hear and know the things concerning which he or she testified; his or her accuracy of memory; frankness or lack of it; intelligence; interest and bias, if any; together with all the facts and circumstances surrounding the testimony. Applying these tests, you will assign to the testimony of each witness such weight as you deem proper.
You are not required to believe the testimony of any witness simply because he or she was under oath. You may believe or disbelieve all or any part of the testimony of any witness. It is your province to determine what testimony is worthy of belief and what testimony is not worthy of belief.
The testimony of a defendant is to be weighed by the same rules that apply to other witnesses.
It is the quality of the evidence that must be weighed not the quantity. Quality may, or may not, be identical with the greater number of witnesses. A number of exhibits and the testimony related to them have been introduced. You may consider whether the exhibits are the same objects and in the same condition as originally taken by the deputies or police officers. You will determine what weight, if any, the exhibits should receive in the light of all the evidence.
The defendant is charged with domestic violence. Each case must be considered separately.
Before you can find the defendant guilty, you must find beyond a reasonable doubt that on or about the 22nd day of May, 2011, and in Montgomery County, Ohio, the defendant did knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to a family or household member.
If you find that the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant committed all the essential elements of the offense charged in the complaint, your verdict must be guilty as to that offense.
The following definitions are to be used in your determination:
KNOWINGLY. A person acts knowingly, regardless of his purpose, when he is aware that his conduct will probably cause a certain result or he is aware that his conduct will probably be of a certain nature. A person has knowledge of circumstances when he is aware that such circumstances probably exist.
Since you cannot look into the mind of another, knowledge is determined from all the facts and circumstances in evidence. You will determine from these facts and circumstances whether there existed at the time in the mind of the defendant an awareness of the probability that he was committing domestic violence.
CAUSE. The state charges that the act of the defendant caused physical harm to Angelia Tool. Cause is an essential element of the offense. Cause is an act or failure to act which in a natural and continuous sequence directly produces the physical harm to, and without which it would not have occurred.
NATURAL CONSEQUENCES. The defendant’s responsibility is not limited to the immediate or most obvious result of the defendant’s act or failure to act. The defendant is also responsible for the natural and foreseeable results that follow, in the ordinary course of events, from the act or failure to act.
PHYSICAL HARM means any injury, illness, or other physiological impairment, regardless of its gravity or duration.
IMMINENT means about to happen.
RESIDE means to live in a place on an ongoing basis.
FAMILY OR HOUSEHOLD MEMBER means:
(A) a person who is residing with the defendant, has resided with the defendant AND who is living as a spouse of the defendant or is parent of a child of the defendant.
(B) the natural parent of a child of whom the defendant is the natural parent or putative parent.
ATTEMPT occurs when an offender engages in conduct that, if successful, would result in domestic violence.
If you find that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt all the essential elements of the offense charged, your verdict must be guilty as to such offense according to your findings. If you find that the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any one of the essential elements of the offense charged, your verdict must be not guilty as to such offense according to your findings.
You may not discuss or consider the subject of punishment. In the event you find the defendant guilty, the duty to determine the punishment is placed, by law, upon the Court.
You must not be influenced by any consideration of sympathy or prejudice. It is your duty to carefully weigh the evidence, to decide all disputed questions of fact, to apply the instructions of the Court to your findings, and to render your verdict accordingly. In fulfilling your duty, your efforts must be to arrive at a just verdict. Consider all the evidence and make your finding with intelligence and impartiality, and without bias, sympathy or prejudice, so that the State of Ohio and the defendant will feel that their case was fairly and impartially tried. If, during the course of the trial, the Court said or did anything that you consider an indication of the Court’s view on the facts, you are instructed to disregard it.
If during your deliberations you have a question, the foreperson must put your question in writing, indicating specifically what is requested. Such communication must be delivered to the bailiff by ringing the buzzer in the jury room. If the bailiff does not answer within a few moments, please ring again. She may be on the phone or may have stepped away for a few moments. An answer to your question may take several minutes depending on its nature.
Your initial conduct upon entering the jury room is a matter of importance. It is not wise immediately to express a determination to insist upon a certain verdict because if your sense of pride is aroused you may hesitate to change your position even if you later decide you are wrong.
Consult with one another, consider each other’s views and deliberate with the objective of reaching an agreement, if you can do so without disturbing your individual judgment. Each of you must decide this case for yourself, but you should do so only after a discussion and consideration of the case with your fellow jurors. Do not hesitate to change an opinion if convinced that it is wrong. However, you should not surrender honest convictions in order to be congenial or to reach a verdict solely because of the opinion of other jurors.
Mr. XXX was selected to serve in the event of any misfortune to a member of the panel. It will not be necessary for you to serve further. You are not to discuss this case or tell anyone how you would have voted until after your jury has returned a verdict. You are now excused. Please see the bailiff before you leave.
On behalf of the public and the parties the court expresses appreciation for your services in performing this important public function. When your jury services are completed you may discuss this case with anyone but you are not required to do so. Whether you discuss this case with counsel, the press or anyone else after you are discharged is a matter of your own free choice.
The court will place in your possession the exhibits and the verdict forms. The foreperson will retain possession of these records, including the verdicts, and return them to the courtroom. The foreperson will see that your discussions are orderly and that each juror has the opportunity to discuss the case and to cast his vote; otherwise, the authority of the foreperson is the same as any other juror. Until your verdict is announced in open court, you are not to disclose to anyone else the status of your deliberations or the nature of your verdict.
After you retire select a foreperson in whatever manner you choose and whenever all twelve – I repeat, all twelve – jurors agree upon a verdict, you will sign the verdict in ink and advise the bailiff by using the buzzer in the jury room. You will then be returned to the courtroom.