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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 69874 Find in a Library
Title: Avoiding the Legal Tower of Babel - A Case Study of Innovative Jury Instruction
Journal: Judges' Journal  Volume:19  Issue:3  Dated:(Summer 1980)  Pages:10-15,50-51
Author(s): K P Taylor; R W Buchanon; B Pryor; D U Strawn
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 8
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A Florida case study follows a May 1977 burglary trial, in which traditional jury instructions were substituted with step-by-step process instructions, and it examines implications from the point of view of the judge, prosecutor, and defense.
Abstract: Instead of the standard, State-Supreme-Court-approved oral instruction, the Jesse Davis trial jury received instructions drawn up by the judge to reflect existing theory and research in small-group decisionmaking. The process instructions required binary responses from the jury, set up a sequence of deliberation and were goal and goal-path clear. Shorter than the standard instructions, the process instructions were meant to speed up the deliberation process and make it more orderly. Other advantages were the applicability of the instructions to civil cases, the elimination of the possiblility for judges to influence the jury by their mode of delivering instructions, the good description of reasonable doubt, and the elimination of the ability of a strong personality in the jury to dominate the process. Their disadvantage is that they must be tailored to each individual case. Although both the prosecution and the defense counsels were generally favorable towards the process instructions, both had some concerns. The prosecutor feared that the jury might get involved with one question and not go through the entire spectrum--thus stopping the deliberation process prematurely. The defense counsel worried that, in this case, the law might not be expressed properly, and defense attorneys tend to argue from the perspective of how the law should be. From a practical view, implementation of the process instructions would be relatively easy since their text deals with predictable points of law covered in every case. Further research is needed, however.
Index Term(s): Court reform; Florida; Jury decisionmaking; Jury instructions
Note: This article was adapted from a paper presented at the convention of the Southern Speech Communication Association, Atlanta, Georgia, April 1978.
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