The jury made up of ordinary citizens is an important part of the American justice system. But jurors are not normally people trained in the law, so the laws on which they must base their decisions are explained by the judge using jury instructions, which often consist of standardized texts. This article examines flaws in a jury instruction used in death penalty cases in California, flaws that can lead to misunderstanding of the law on the part of the jurors. The article recommends an approach to creating the instructions that would eliminate these flaws. California’s standardized jury instructions were written by a committee made up of judges, lawyers, and law professors. The author argues that the instructions would do their job more effectively if they were written by people whose expertise is in communication rather than in the law, though the information to be communicated must still be provided by judges and other senior members of the legal community.
- jury instructions,
- death penalty
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/joseph_devney/1/