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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77050 Find in a Library
Title: Memory, Magic, and Myth - The Timing of Jury Instructions
Journal: Oregon Law Review  Volume:59  Issue:4  Dated:(1981)  Pages:451-475
Author(s): J C Goldberg
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 25
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This comment explores the use of pretrial jury instructions, legal limitations in Oregon regarding the use of such instructions, and the advantages of reforming present instruction practices.
Abstract: Pretrial jury instructions can improve the jury decisionmaking process by focusing attention on legally relevant issues and thereby reducing reliance on extralegal factors. Sources of juror bias, as reflected by each juror's own way of evaluating new information, may be greatly reduced. Ostensibly, instructions guide the jury by outlining both the factual issues and the legal principles for a proper decision. Presentation of the instructions at the end of the trial, however, impairs this guidance function. Posttrial presentation assumes that until instructions are given, the jurors will passively listen to the evidence without evaluating it. Preliminary instructions facilitate a fairer trial by properly directing jurors' attention to relevant issues and by providing an appropriate legal framework. Currently, most jurisdictions allow a limited form of general pretrial instruction, but the content is too vague to function as a cognitive framework. Many jurisdictions, including Oregon, have statutory provisions which do not specifically preclude preliminary instructions. In most cases, use of pretrial instructions is discretionary. In practice, Oregon courts confine preliminary instructions to a general indoctrination on procedural matters, and Oregon case law fails to deal directly with the question. Implementation of preliminary instructions would allow corrections of error through the final charge by the judge, encourage tailored pleadings that would expedite trials by eliminating false issues and pinpointing genuine controversies, and could incorporate the use of uniform jury instructions. The article recommends the use of preliminary jury instructions in Oregon's courts. Two tables and 131 footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Judicial process; Juries; Jury decisionmaking; Jury instructions; Law reform; Oregon; Trial procedures
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