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  1. #1
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    Jury Instructions and Reasonable Doubt

    Please Discuss
    Last edited by JBean; 07-12-2009 at 09:50 PM.

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    In regards to the lying charges, they will be instructed to weigh the facts only. They will not hear from Casey herself, I don't think, so the state will have to present what she said and why it's not true. The jury will be read the law, and they told to only consider what the state can prove to be true.

    In the neglect charge, I think they will be read the law and be told to consider only the evidence......only the fact that the mother was unable to say exactly where she last saw her child. I think this the one charge the defense will not "fight" as much, and may be willing to take a guilty verdict, in hopes that the jury will feel OK about getting justice if they pronounce guilty on the neglect/abuse charge.

    For the murder charge, they will be read the law and all statues. They will be instructed that must consider only the evidence presented in court, and that the evidence must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1, a murder occurred, 2, no one else could have been involved, and 3, Casey alone is responsible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by newuser View Post
    In regards to the lying charges, they will be instructed to weigh the facts only. They will not hear from Casey herself, I don't think, so the state will have to present what she said and why it's not true. The jury will be read the law, and they told to only consider what the state can prove to be true.

    In the neglect charge, I think they will be read the law and be told to consider only the evidence......only the fact that the mother was unable to say exactly where she last saw her child. I think this the one charge the defense will not "fight" as much, and may be willing to take a guilty verdict, in hopes that the jury will feel OK about getting justice if they pronounce guilty on the neglect/abuse charge.

    For the murder charge, they will be read the law and all statues. They will be instructed that must consider only the evidence presented in court, and that the evidence must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1, a murder occurred, 2, no one else could have been involved, and 3, Casey alone is responsible.
    MY BOLD

    The above bolded is the part that I forsee Baez & Co. working the most doubt into a jury. Here is also where I see the bus coming, and those most likely to be flung underneath of it include Cindy and George, Amy, Jesse, Ricardo and Tony L. I vacillate over Lee, but ultimately have decided that he won't become one of her sacrificial lambs. I also think this is the part of the jury instructions that are most likely to bring about a lesser conviction if that is allowed under the law (?). I personally don't feel that KC had any help; the disposal was too ineptly carried out waaay too close to her home for her to have had help. Cindy or George would've ensured either a) that little Caylee's remains were never found, or that b) they were found far away from their property but close to the home of whomever was their most likely scapegoat.

    On one hand, I can't conceive of a winnable strategy that would put KC on the stand; on another, I can't imagine a jury accepting a defense in which they do not hear from her. Jury instructions aside, people are still human, and humans crave answers and explanations from those involved in cases like this. The cross-examination alone would be so brutal though that it would probably negate any reasonable explanation she could pull from her nether regions. I think this jury will ultimately be won over the the state's side by the forensics. I sincerely hope that they will find jurors intelligent enough to grasp the new scientific concepts and won't be intimidated by Baez's smokescreen of "junk science."
    Last edited by akashana; 07-12-2009 at 02:49 PM. Reason: typo

  4. #4
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    Discuss Jury instructions? Hmmm...difficult at the moment as I do not yet understand whether all charges will be combined into one trial or not. Florida, like most states, has standard jury instructions for all criminal proceedings which will include instructions before the trial, during the trial, final charge, and supplemental instructions. The standard instructions which will be read to the jury will depend upon whether the murder trial will include all the charges which include false statements to LE, financial fraud charges relating to the check forgeries, child abuse/neglect, and murder (& perhaps others such as impeding an investigation, theft, abuse of a corpse, etc). However, it seems that I recall something about the abuse/neglect charges being dropped when (or sometime after KC was indicted for murder). And as I recall they are wanting to procede with the fraud (financial) charges separately. So, for the purpose of this thread and JB's request that we discuss the jury instructions I'd guess that the reference is primarily to the final charge to the jury on the murder charge itself and try to limit my comments to that.

    There are a few things I find interesting in the FL standard jury instructions for homicide.

    1) A charge of murder in the 1st degree includes the lesser crimes of murder in the 2nd & 3rd degrees and manslaugter - so I would expect that the standard instructions for those crimes would also be given to this jury though I won't try to address them at this time. (This would mean that the jury can choose to come back with a guilty verdict of 2nd or 3rd degree or manslaughter even though KC is charged with 1st degree.)

    2) To be an "excusable homicide" as the result of an accident that accident would have to have taken place during a lawful act by lawful means using ordinary caution without any lawful intent. (This would mean that KC couldn't claim it was an accidental overdose of chloroform or accidental suffication in the car as administering drugs to a child or neglecting a child are not lawful acts. This doesn't mean that if the jury believed such a claim that they have to come back with a 1st degree guilty verdict as they could come back with one of the lesser included charges mentioned above.)

    3)To prove the crime of First Degree Premeditated Murder the State must prove 3 elements - 1st) Caylee is dead, 2nd) Caylee's death was caused by the criminal act of KC, 3rd) KC premeditated the killing

    4) In order to prove the crime of First Degree Felony Murder it is not necessary for the State to prove premeditation. To prove the crime of First Degree Felony Murder the State must prove 3 elements - 1st) Caylee is dead, 2nd) Caylee's death occurred while KC was engaged in the commission of _____ (alleged crime) or attempted commission of (alleged crime), 3rd) KC was the person who actually killed Caylee or was a principle in the (alleged crime).

    5) There will no doubt be additonal or special instructions to the jury including aggrevating circumstances which make this a death penalty case as well as other standard instructions including the Williams Rule which addresses evidence of other crimes or wrong-doings not specifically charged and how that evidence is only to be considered in establishing motive, opportunity, intent, etc of the crime(s) that have been charged. (I would guess that this is where things such as lying to LE or the fraud charges and the neglect/abuse charges will come in rather than them actually being included in the same trial.)

    6) Perhaps the most important instruction for any jury is the one regarding the not guilty plea, reasonable doubt, and the burden of proof. This jury will be instructed that KC is to be given the presumption of innocence is a not guilty plea is entered and that she is not required to prove her innocence. They will be instructed that the State has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. They will be further instructed that a reasonable doubt may arise out of the evidence introduced at trial or the conflict of evidence or the lack of evidence. They will also be instructed that a reasonable doubt is NOT "a mere possible doubt" or a "speculative," "imaginary," or "forced" doubt and that after weighing the evidence if they have an abiding conviction of guilt the possiblity of a mere, speculative, imaginary or forced doubt must not influence them to return a not guilty verdict or that if that abiding conviction of guilt is not present after weighing the evidence but rather they waiver in their conviction of guilt then the charge has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and they must return a not guilty verdict. (It is my opinion that jurors often fail to understand that the term "reasonable doubt" does not mean that there isn't some other far-fetched explanation presented by the defense - like the nanny took her which simply is not reasonable nor believable - but that "reasonable doubt" exists because of evidence, conflict of evidence, or lack of evidence and must be...well...reasonable. So I believe a proper instruction regarding "reasonable doubt" is as crucial to convicting the guilty as as it is to preventing conviction of the innocent.)

    These are just some of the instructions that I find interesting and my comments on why I find them interesting. It is not intended to include every instruction the jury will receive.
    I know that you think you understand what you thought you heard me say, but, I'm not sure that you realize that what you heard me say is not really what I meant to convey.

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    Historically, jury instructions in criminal cases have found their roots in Constitutional or statutory law and then evolved through case law. I wonder if the internet discussions are going to impact jury instructions; by showing a need to refute misguided concepts held by the public and on the blogs. For example, in the Guilty/Not Guilty poll thread there is an extensive discussion about some some called a "reasonable explanation" jury instruction, and that turned out to be a perception that was not entirely accurate. When we looked up the exact language of the jury instruction and the case law that spawned the jury instruction, it turned out it was only addressing the sufficiency of evidence when addressing circumstantial evidence. These street myths on legal standards have, no doubt, impacted cases in the past, to be sure. However, with the invention of the computer, the internet and blogs, there may arise a compelling need to address not only the law and legal standards, but also to address and refute the street myths.

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    That and there seems to be a misconception between "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" and "proof beyond the shadow of doubt".

    In essence there can still be a doubt in the mind of the juror, but only to the extent that it would not affect a "reasonable person's" belief regarding whether or not the defendant is guilty.

    Beyond the shadow of doubt implies that there can be no doubt in the jurors mind what so ever, and that is not what is implied by the jury instructions if I'm not mistaken.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Themis View Post
    Historically, jury instructions in criminal cases have found their roots in Constitutional or statutory law and then evolved through case law. I wonder if the internet discussions are going to impact jury instructions; by showing a need to refute misguided concepts held by the public and on the blogs. For example, in the Guilty/Not Guilty poll thread there is an extensive discussion about some some called a "reasonable explanation" jury instruction, and that turned out to be a perception that was not entirely accurate. When we looked up the exact language of the jury instruction and the case law that spawned the jury instruction, it turned out it was only addressing the sufficiency of evidence when addressing circumstantial evidence. These street myths on legal standards have, no doubt, impacted cases in the past, to be sure. However, with the invention of the computer, the internet and blogs, there may arise a compelling need to address not only the law and legal standards, but also to address and refute the street myths.
    Yeah, well, about 3 jury trials ago I was worried about jurors writing their own jury instructions based upon TV programs, etc., I requested an instruction to dispel what I thought a layperson might believe was the law. The judge said no, because nothing in the instructions he planned to give was going to suggest that idea to the jury, and nothing the opposing counsel was going to say would give them such an idea. Basically he adopted the fiction that the jurors walk in as "blank slates" regarding the law.

    So...we lost, and afterward we spoke to the jury foreman, and he explained, "Well, we thought it was really weird that no one mentioned that upon the happening of [X event], of course, [Y would be the legal result]. But several of us knew about that rule from watching Court TV, etc., so we just applied the rule anyway."

    Grrr. Arrrgh.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by marspiter View Post
    That and there seems to be a misconception between "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" and "proof beyond the shadow of doubt".

    In essence there can still be a doubt in the mind of the juror, but only to the extent that it would not affect a "reasonable person's" belief regarding whether or not the defendant is guilty.

    Beyond the shadow of doubt implies that there can be no doubt in the jurors mind what so ever, and that is not what is implied by the jury instructions if I'm not mistaken.
    You are not mistaken. There is no mathmatical calculation or "calibration" required. No single item or group of evidence needs be tested to 100% certainty. There is no such thing as an "irrefutable" evidence requirement.

    I wouldn't be surprised if a number of these street myths are perpetuated by "jailhouse lawyers" or members of the anarchistic fringe element.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AZlawyer View Post
    Yeah, well, about 3 jury trials ago I was worried about jurors writing their own jury instructions based upon TV programs, etc., I requested an instruction to dispel what I thought a layperson might believe was the law. The judge said no, because nothing in the instructions he planned to give was going to suggest that idea to the jury, and nothing the opposing counsel was going to say would give them such an idea. Basically he adopted the fiction that the jurors walk in as "blank slates" regarding the law.

    So...we lost, and afterward we spoke to the jury foreman, and he explained, "Well, we thought it was really weird that no one mentioned that upon the happening of [X event], of course, [Y would be the legal result]. But several of us knew about that rule from watching Court TV, etc., so we just applied the rule anyway."

    Grrr. Arrrgh.
    THERE is the proof of what I'm talking about. So sorry, AZ. I know, there are supposed to be remedies like a retrial due to juror misconduct, but those are exceedingly rare in practice. So sorry.

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    Another of my frustrations is working so hard to research the facts and the law, to be exact and unbiased on the law and the correct legal result, only to have the politicos get involved and take the case in another direction because they don't like the result. I'm not talking prosecutorial discretion of the DA or SA, but elected partisan politicians who are not the DA or SA.


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    Quote Originally Posted by marspiter View Post
    That and there seems to be a misconception between "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" and "proof beyond the shadow of doubt".

    In essence there can still be a doubt in the mind of the juror, but only to the extent that it would not affect a "reasonable person's" belief regarding whether or not the defendant is guilty.

    Beyond the shadow of doubt implies that there can be no doubt in the jurors mind what so ever, and that is not what is implied by the jury instructions if I'm not mistaken.
    Bolded & colored by me. Well stated!

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by marspiter View Post
    That and there seems to be a misconception between "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" and "proof beyond the shadow of doubt".
    In essence there can still be a doubt in the mind of the juror, but only to the extent that it would not affect a "reasonable person's" belief regarding whether or not the defendant is guilty.

    Beyond the shadow of doubt implies that there can be no doubt in the jurors mind what so ever, and that is not what is implied by the jury instructions if I'm not mistaken.
    Bolded part by me- "Proof beyond a REASONABLE doubt".



    Main Entry: rea·son·able
    Pronunciation: \ˈrēz-nə-bəl, ˈrē-zən-ə-bəl\
    Function: adjective
    Date: 14th century
    1 a: being in accordance with reason <a reasonable theory> b: not extreme or excessive <reasonable requests> c: moderate, fair <a reasonable chance> <a reasonable price> d: inexpensive
    2 a: having the faculty of reason b: possessing sound judgment <a reasonable man>

    This is not a hard concept to grasp. Reasonable. Quite simple in my mind. 31 days. Pretty much sums it up for me. The wild goose chase to Universal KC took LE on. The not one ounce, not one sentence, of help offered to LE to assist LE from KC to help find Caylee. The fact KC never mentions to one single friend, especially her live in lover at the time, her child was missing. There in and of itself is "reasonable doubt" for me without any hard scientific evidence.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by AZlawyer View Post

    SNIP

    Basically he adopted the fiction that the jurors walk in as "blank slates" regarding the law.

    SNIP


    Grrr. Arrrgh.
    Judges know that's not realistic.
    It's not what a man knows that makes him a fool, it's what he does know that ain't so. .... Josh Billings

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Themis View Post

    SNIP

    For example, in the Guilty/Not Guilty poll thread there is an extensive discussion about some some called a "reasonable explanation" jury instruction, and that turned out to be a perception that was not entirely accurate. When we looked up the exact language of the jury instruction and the case law that spawned the jury instruction, it turned out it was only addressing the sufficiency of evidence when addressing circumstantial evidence.

    SNIP

    The explanatory hypo I posted specifically conditions but "circumstantial evidence".

    Perception problem?

    Myth?




    HTH
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  15. #15
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    I am not a lawyer , been a juror a few times. Isn't there something in the law that states "if a fact can be applied either way (for defense or prosecution) it must go to the defense.
    In other words that it is just as reasonable a person was seen walking into a bank, that the person may have robbed the bank or did not rob the bank. Probably a bad example but it is early I haven't had my coffee yet.

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