In federal court, members of a jury are given specific instructions as to what they must decide, what the law is and how it applies, what the elements of the offense(s) are, etc. Some appellate courts have model jury instructions on which the judges are to base their instructions. While perusing the model jury instructions of an appellate court one particular instruction about taking notes caught my eye. I grabbed similar instructions from other appellate courts.
Sixth Circuit: Remember that if you elected to take notes during the trial, your notes should be used only as memory aids. You should not give your notes greater weight than your independent recollection of the evidence. You should rely upon your own independent recollection of the evidence or lack of evidence and you should not be unduly influenced by the notes of other jurors. Notes are not entitled to any more weight than the memory or impression of each juror.
Ninth Circuit: Some of you have taken notes during the trial. Whether or not you took notes, you should rely on your own memory of what was said. Notes are only to assist your memory. You should not be overly influenced by the notes.
Tenth Circuit: If you do decide to take notes, be careful not to get so involved in note taking that you become distracted, and remember that your notes will not necessarily reflect exactly what was said, so your notes should be used only as memory aids. Therefore, you should not give your notes precedence over your independent recollection of the evidence. You should also not be unduly influenced by the notes of other jurors. If you do take notes, leave them in the jury room at night and do not discuss the contents of your notes until you begin deliberations.
Eleventh Circuit: You will have your notes available to you during your deliberations, but you should make use of them only as an aid to your memory. In other words, you should not give your notes any precedence over your independent recollection of the evidence or the lack of evidence; and neither should you be unduly influenced by the notes of other jurors. I emphasize that notes are not entitled to any greater weight than the memory or impression of each juror as to what the testimony may have been.
I'm both curious and puzzled because this runs counter to how we do things in school where the point of note taking is to remember details. Can you imagine telling a teacher or professor that although it differs from your notes, your individual recollection takes precedence? If it's good enough for our legal system, it's good enough for Math 101, right?
But more importantly, what if you noted an important detail during a trial and it differed from the majority of your fellow juror's recollections?
5 days ago