R414 Group Project Mock Court Jury Instructions
You will hear the evidence, decide what the facts are, and then apply those facts to the law that I will give to you. You and only you will be the judges of the facts. You will have to decide what happened. You should not take anything the judge may say or do during the trial as indicating what he/she thinks of the evidence or what your verdict should be. The role of the judge is rule on the law. He/she will make whatever legal decisions have to be made during the course of the trial, and he/she will explain to you the legal principles that must guide you in your decisions. You must follow that law whether you agree with it or not.
First, during the trial and until you have heard all of the evidence and retired to the jury room to deliberate, you are not to discuss the case with anyone, not even among yourselves. There are good reasons for this ban on discussions, the most important being the need for you to keep an open mind throughout the presentation of evidence.
Second, do not try to do any independent research or investigation on your own on matters relating to the case or this type of case. Do not do any research on the internet, for example. You are to decide the case upon the evidence presented at trial and the background of the case presented in CANVAS. In other words, you should not consult reference materials, search the internet, websites, blogs to obtain information about this case or to help you decide the case.
Again, do not reach any conclusion on the claims [or defenses] until all of the evidence is in. Keep an open mind until you start your deliberations at the end of the case.
The evidence from which you are to find the facts consists of the following:
- The testimony of the witnesses;
- Documents and other things received as exhibits;
- Any facts that are stipulated–that is, formally agreed to by the parties; and
The following things are not evidence:
- Statements, arguments, and questions of the lawyers for the parties in this case;
- Objections by lawyers.
- Any testimony I tell you to disregard; and
- Anything you may see or hear about this case outside the courtroom.
You must make your decision based only on the evidence that you see and hear in court. You should use your common sense in weighing the evidence. Consider it in light of your everyday experience with people and events, and give it whatever weight you believe it deserves. If your experience tells you that certain evidence reasonably leads to a conclusion, you are free to reach that conclusion.
Credibility of Witnesses
In deciding what the facts are, you may have to decide what testimony you believe and what testimony you do not believe. You are the sole judges of the credibility of the witnesses. “Credibility” means whether a witness is worthy of belief. You may believe everything a witness says or only part of it or none of it. In deciding what to believe, you may consider a number of factors, including the following:
(1) the opportunity and ability of the witness to see or hear or know the things the witness testifies to;
(2) the quality of the witness’s understanding and memory;
(3) the witness’s manner while testifying;
(4) whether the witness has an interest in the outcome of the case or any motive, bias or prejudice;
(5) whether the witness is contradicted by anything the witness said or wrote before trial or by other evidence;
(6) how reasonable the witness’s testimony is when considered in the light of other evidence that you believe; and
(7) any other factors that bear on believability.
The weight of the evidence to prove a fact does not necessarily depend on the number of witnesses who testify. What is more important is how believable the witnesses were, and how much weight you think their testimony deserves.
Jury Questions for Witnesses
Only the lawyers and I are allowed to ask questions of witnesses. You are not permitted to ask questions of witnesses.
Note-Taking by Jurors
You are encouraged to take notes during the presentation of evidence, the summations of attorneys at the conclusion of the evidence, and during my instructions to you on the law.
As you listen to the testimony, keep in mind that you will be relying on your recollection of that testimony during your deliberations. Here are some other specific points to keep in mind about note taking:
- Note-taking is permitted, not required. Each of you may take notes. No one is required to take notes.
- Be brief. Do not try to summarize all of the testimony. Notes are for the purpose of refreshing memory. They are particularly helpful when dealing with measurements, times, distances, identities, and relationships. Overuse of note-taking may be distracting. You must determine the credibility of witnesses; so you must observe the demeanor and appearance of each person on the witness stand. Note-taking must not distract you from that task. If you wish to make a note, you need not sacrifice the opportunity to make important observations. You may make your note after having made an observation.
Preponderance of the Evidence
This is a civil case. Plaintiff has the burden of proving [his/her/its] case by what is called the preponderance of the evidence. That means plaintiff has to prove to you, in light of all the evidence, that what [he/she/it] claims is more likely so than not so. To say it differently: if you were to put the evidence favorable to plaintiff and the evidence favorable to defendant on opposite sides of the scales, plaintiff would have to make the scales tip somewhat on [his/her/its] side. If plaintiff fails to meet this burden, the verdict must be for defendant. If you find after considering all the evidence that a claim or fact is more likely so than not so, then the claim or fact has been proved by a preponderance of the evidence.
In determining whether any fact has been proved by a preponderance of evidence in the case, you may, unless otherwise instructed, consider the testimony of all witnesses, regardless of who may have called them, and all exhibits received in evidence, regardless of who may have produced them.
Judgments from each juror must be articulated in a typed statement including a justification based upon the testimony heard in class. Your final judgment statement should be more than just your opinion and also include a justified rationale based upon the evidence heard in class. At the end of your statement, please clearly indicate who (i.e., plaintiff or defendant) should prevail in the case.
Each student enrolled in the course will serve as a juror, and shall submit their ruling separate from their group documentation on the date as specified in class.