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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

2.1-2  Function of Court and Jury

Revised to December 1, 2007

It is exclusively the function of the court to state the rules of law that govern the case, with instructions as to how you are to apply them.  It is your obligation to accept the law as I state it.  You must follow all of my instructions and not single out some and ignore others; they are all equally important.

You are the sole judge of the facts.  It is your duty to find the facts.  You are to recollect and weigh the evidence and form your own conclusions as to what the ultimate facts are.  You may not go outside the evidence introduced in court to find the facts.  This means that you may not resort to guesswork, conjecture or suspicion, and you must not be influenced by any personal likes or dislikes, opinions, prejudices or sympathy.

You should not be influenced by my actions during the trial in ruling on motions or objections by counsel, or in comments to counsel, or in questions to witnesses, or in setting forth the law in these instructions.  You are not to take my actions as any indication of my opinion as to how you should determine the issues of fact.

Now, should I refer to any evidence, it is only for the purpose of clarification of some point of law or a point of illustration or to refresh your recollection as to the general nature of the testimony.  I do not intend to emphasize any evidence I mention or limit your consideration to it.  If I do not mention certain evidence, you will use the evidence from your recollection.  If my recollection of the evidence does not comport with your recollection, then it is your recollection which must prevail because you are the exclusive trier of the facts.

The defendant justly relies upon you to consider carefully (his/her) claims, to consider carefully all of the evidence and to find (him/her) not guilty if the facts and the law require such a verdict.  The defendant rightfully expects fair and just treatment at your hands.

At the same time, the state of Connecticut and its people look to you to render a verdict of guilty if the facts and law require such a verdict.

The law prohibits the state's attorney or defense counsel from giving personal opinions as to whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.  It is not their assessment of the credibility of witnesses that matters, only yours.

Commentary

See, e.g., State v. Faust, 237 Conn. 454, 477-78 (1996); State v. Mejia, 233 Conn. 215, 242-43 (1995); State v. Francis, 228 Conn. 118, 133-35 (1993); State v. Walton, 227 Conn. 32, 63 (1993).  State v. Gannon, 75 Conn. 206, 218-37 (1902), contains a thorough discussion regarding the functions of the court and jury.

Marshaling the evidence
In State v. Lemoine, 233 Conn. 502 (1995), the Supreme Court addressed the issue of "whether the trial court, in its jury instructions in a criminal trial, has a constitutional obligation to refer to the evidence relating to the crimes charged in the information."  Id., 504.  The Court concluded "that review of or comment on the evidence is not constitutionally mandated where the trial court, in the exercise of its sound discretion, determines that such commentary is not necessary and that the jury would be properly instructed and not misled in its absence."  Id., 512.

The trial court should always caution the jury that "it should rely on its own recollection of the facts, rather than on the characterizations set forth by the court in the charge" and that the court, in commenting on the evidence, does "not intend either to emphasize certain evidence above other evidence or to avoid mentioning certain evidence."  State v. Delgado, 247 Conn. 616 (1999); see also State v. Davis, 255 Conn. 782, 797-800 (2001); State v. Reid, 254 Conn. 540, 559-60 (2000); State v. Johnson, 53 Conn. App. 476, 482-84, cert. denied, 249 Conn. 929 (1999); State v. Adams, 52 Conn. App. 643, 647-48 (1999), aff'd, 252 Conn. 752, cert. denied, 531 U.S. 876, 121 S.Ct. 182, 148 L.Ed.2d 126 (2000).

It is not necessary to marshal the evidence when the issues are not complex.  State v. Youngs, 97 Conn. App. 348, 366-67, cert. denied, 280 Conn. 930 (2006).
 


 

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