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Tailored Jury Instructions: Writing Instructions That Match a Specific Jury's Reading Level

45 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2017 Last revised: 3 Feb 2017

Jonathan Michael Barnes

Mississippi Law Journal

Date Written: January 12, 2017

Abstract

Current jury instruction practice provides juries with one-size-fits-all instructions. These instructions consistently exceed juries’ reading levels and result in disparity in juror participation and capital sentencing. This Article is the first to propose measuring a specific jury’s reading level and allowing attorneys to craft instructions that match that jury’s reading level. There are tools available to attorneys that will allow them to measure a jury’s reading level and tools that will allow them to evaluate the comprehensibility of instructions. Courts have previously solidified these linguistic-measuring tools’ legal validity, opening the door for trial judges to implement tailored instructions without fear of appellate reversal. Thus, Instead of using one-size-fits-all instructions, attorneys should be tailoring instructions to ensure proper jury application of the law.

Keywords: Jury Instructions, Pattern Jury Instructions, Jury Instruction Reform, Linguistics, Semantics, Syntax, Reading Comprehension, Plain English

Suggested Citation

Barnes, Jonathan Michael, Tailored Jury Instructions: Writing Instructions That Match a Specific Jury's Reading Level (January 12, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2898294

Jonathan Barnes (Contact Author)

Mississippi Law Journal ( email )

MS 38677
United States

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