Judge James Todd: Proposed Civil Jury Instructions
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE

WESTERN DIVISION


  Plaintiff,

 vs.                                                                                                        No.  

Defendant.


PROPOSED JURY INSTRUCTIONS


71-2

You have now heard all of the evidence in the case as well as the final arguments of the lawyers for the parties.

My duty at this point is to instruct you as to the law. It is your duty to accept these instructions of law and apply them to the facts as you determine them, just as it has been my duty to preside over the trial and decide what testimony and evidence is relevant under the law for your consideration.

On these legal matters, you must take the law as I give it to you. If any attorney has stated a legal principle different from any that I state to you in my instructions, it is my instructions that you must follow.

  You should not single out any instruction as alone stating the law, but you should consider my instructions as a whole when you retire to deliberate in the jury room.

  You should not, any of you, be concerned about the wisdom of any rule that I state. Regardless of any opinion that you may have as to what the law may be -- or ought to be --  it would violate your sworn duty to base a verdict upon any other view of the law than that which I give you.

 

71-3

As members of the jury , you are the sole and exclusive judges of the facts. You pass upon the evidence. You determine the credibility of the witnesses.  You resolve such conflicts as there may be in the testimony. You draw whatever reasonable inferences you decide to draw from the facts as you have determined them, and you determine the weight of the evidence.

Since you are the sole and exclusive judges of the facts, I do not mean to indicate any opinion as to the facts or what your verdict should be. The rulings I have made during the trial are not any indication of my views of what your decision should be as to whether or not the plaintiff has proven his case.

  As to the facts, ladies and gentlemen, you are the exclusive judges. You are to perform the duty of finding the facts without bias or prejudice to any party .

 

71-4

In determining the facts, you are reminded that you took an oath to render judgment impartially and fairly, without prejudice or sympathy and without fear, solely upon the evidence in the case and the applicable law.

 

  71-5

Your authority must be exercised with sincere judgment, sound discretion, and in accordance with the rules of law which I give you. In making your determination of the facts in this case, your judgment must be applied only to that which is properly in evidence.

Arguments of counsel are not in evidence, although you may give consideration to those arguments in making up your mind on what inferences to draw from the facts which are in evidence.

From time to time the court has been called upon to pass upon the admissibility of certain evidence, although I have tried to do so, insofar as it was practicable, out of your hearing. You have no concern with the reasons for any such rulings and you are not to draw any inferences from them.

Whether offered evidence is admissible is purely a question of law in the province of the court and outside the province of the jury. In admitting evidence to which objection has been made, the court does not determine what weight should be given to such evidence, nor does it pass on the credibility of the evidence. Of course, you will dismiss from your mind completely, entirely any evidence which has been ruled out of the case by the court, and you will refrain from speculation or conjecture or any guesswork about the nature or effect of any discussion between court and counsel held out of your hearing or sight.

 

71-6

It is the duty of the attorney on each side of a case to object when the other side offers testimony or other evidence which the attorney believes is not properly admissible. Counsel also have the right and duty to ask the court to make rulings of law and to request conferences at the side bar out of the hearing of the jury .All those questions of law must be decided by me, the court. You should not show any prejudice against an attorney or his client because the attorney objected to the admissibility of evidence, or asked for a conference out of the hearing of the jury or asked the court for a ruling on the law.

As I already indicated, my rulings on the admissibility of evidence do not, unless expressly stated by me, indicate any opinion as to the weight or effect of such evidence. You are the sole judges of the credibility of all witnesses and the weight and effect of all evidence.

 

71-9

Your verdict must be based solely upon the evidence developed at this trial, or the lack of evidence.

It would be improper for you to consider any personal feelings you may have about ond of the parties' race, religion, national origin, sex or age.

It would be equally improper for you to allow any feelings you might have about the nature of the claim against the defendant to influence you in any way.

The parties in this case are entitled to a trial free from prejudice. Our judicial system cannot work unless you reach your verdict through a fair and impartial consideration of the evidence.

 

71-10

Under your oath as jurors you are not to be swayed by sympathy. You should be guided solely by the evidence presented during the trial, without regard to the consequences of your decision.

You have been chosen to try the issues of fact and reach a verdict on the basis of the evidence or lack of evidence. If you let sympathy interfere with your clear thinking, there is a risk that you will not arrive at a just verdict. All parties to a civil lawsuit are entitled to a fair trial. You must make a fair and impartial decision to that you will arrive at a just verdict.

 

71-15

Your verdict must be based solely on the evidence presented in this courtroom in accordance with my instructions. You must completely disregard any report which you have read in the press, seen on television, or heard on the radio. Indeed, it would be unfair to consider such reports, since they are not evidence and the parties have no opportunity of contradicting their accuracy or otherwise explaining them away. In short, it would be a violation of your oath as jurors to allow yourselves to be influenced in any manner by such publicity.

 

73-2

The party with the burden of proof on any given issue which has a preponderance of the evidence standard has the burden of proving every disputed element of his claim to you by a preponderance of the evidence. If you conclude that the party bearing the burden of proof has failed to establish his claim by a preponderance of the evidence, you must decide against him on the issue you are considering.

What does a "preponderance of evidence" mean? To establish a fact by a preponderance of the evidence means to prove that the fact is more likely true than not true. A preponderance of the evidence means the greater weight of the evidence. It refers to the quality and persuasiveness of the evidence, not to the number of witnesses or documents. In determining whether a claim has been proved by a preponderance of the evidence, you may consider the relevant testimony of all witnesses, regardless of who may have called them, and all the relevant exhibits received in evidence, regardless of who may have produced them.

If you find that the credible evidence on a given issue is evenly divided between the parties --that it is equally probable that one side is right as it is that the other side is right -- then you must decide that issue against the party having this burden of proof. That is because the party bearing this burden must prove more than simple equality of evidence -- he must prove the element at issue by a preponderance of the evidence. On the other hand, the party with this burden of proof need prove no more than a preponderance. So long as you find that the scales tip, however, slightly, in favor of the party with this burden of proof -- that what they party claims is more likely true than not true -- then that element will have been proved by a preponderance of the evidence.

Some of you may have heard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the proper standard of proof in a criminal trial. That requirement does not apply to a civil case such as this and you should put it out of your mind.

 

74-1

The evidence in this case is the sworn testimony of the witnesses.

By contrast, the question of a lawyer is not to be considered by you as evidence. It is the witnesses' answers that are evidence, not the questions.

Testimony that has been stricken or excluded is not evidence and may not be considered by you in rendering your verdict.

Arguments by lawyers are not evidence, because the lawyers are not witnesses. What they have said to you in their opening statements and in their summations is intended to help you understand the evidence to reach your verdict. However, if your recollection of the facts differs from the lawyers' statements, it is your recollection which controls.

Finally, statements which I may have made concerning the quality of the evidence do not constitute evidence.

It is for you alone to decide the weight, if any, to be given to the testimony you have heard and the exhibits you have seen.

 

74-2

There are two types of evidence which you may properly use in reaching your verdict. One type of evidence is direct evidence. Direct evidence is when a witness testifies about something he knows by virtue of his own senses --something he has seen, felt, touched, or heard. Direct evidence may also be in the form of an exhibit where the fact to be proved is its present existence or condition.

Circumstantial evidence is evidence which tends to prove a disputed fact by proof or other facts. You infer on the basis of reason and experience and common sense from one established fact the existence or non-existence of some other fact.

Circumstantial evidence is of no less value than direct evidence; for, it is a general rule that the law makes no distinction between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence but simply requires that your verdict must be based on a preponderance of all the evidence  presented.

 

74-4

A stipulation of facts is an agreement among the parties that a certain fact is true. You must regard such agreed facts as true.

 

76-1

You have had the opportunity to observe all the witnesses. It is now your job to decide how believable each witness was in his or her testimony. You are the sole judges of the credibility of each witness and of the importance of his or her testimony.

It must be clear to you by now that you are being called upon to resolve various factual issues raised by the parties in the face of very different pictures painted by both sides. Someone is not telling the truth and you must decide who that is. In making these judgments, you should carefully scrutinize all of the testimony of each witness, the circumstances under which each witness testified, and any other matter in evidence which may help you decide the truth and the importance of each witness' testimony.

How do you determine where the truth lies? You watched the witness testify. Everything a witness said or did on the witness stand counts in your determination. How did the witness impress you? Did he appear to be frank, forthright and candid, or evasive and edgy as if hiding something? How did the witness appear; what was his demeanor -- that is, his carriage, behavior, bearing, manner and appearance while testifying? Often it is not what a person says but how he says it that moves us.

You should use all the tests for truthfulness that you would use in determining matters of importance to you in your everyday life. You should consider any bias or hostility the witness may have shown for or against any party as well as any interest the witness has in the outcome of the case. You should consider the opportunity the witness had to see, hear, and know the things about which he testified, the accuracy of his memory , his candor or lack of candor, his intelligence, the reasonableness and probability of his testimony and its consistency or lack of consistency and its corroboration or lack of corroboration with other credible testimony.

In other words, what you must try to do is deciding credibility is to size a witness up in light of his or her demeanor, the explanations given and all of the other evidence in the case. Always remember that you should use your common sense, your good judgment and your own life experience.

 

77-1

If the plaintiff has proven by a preponderance of the credible evidence that defendants are liable on the plaintiff's claim, then you must determine the damages to which the plaintiff is entitled. However, you should not infer that the plaintiff is entitled to recover damages merely because I have instructed you on the amount of damages. It is exclusively your function to decide upon liability, and I have instructed you on damages only so that you will have guidance should you decide that the plaintiff is entitled to recovery.

 

78-1

You are about to go into the jury room and begin your deliberations. Any communication with the court -- should always be made to me in writing, signed by your foreperson, and given to one of the marshals. Do not tell me or anyone else how the jury stands on any issue until after the unanimous verdict is reached.

 

78-3

You will now return to decide the case. In order to prevail, the plaintiff must sustain the burden of proof as I have explained to you with respect to each element of his complaint. If you find that a plaintiff has succeeded, you should return a verdict in his or her favor on that claim.

It is your duty as jurors to consult with one another and to deliberate with a view to reaching an agreement. Each of you must decide the case for himself, but you should do so only after a consideration of the case with your fellow jurors, and you should not hesitate to change an opinion when convinced that it is erroneous. Your verdict must be unanimous, but you are not bound to surrender your honest convictions concerning the effect or weight of the evidence for the mere purpose of returning a verdict or solely because of the opinion of other jurors. Discuss and weigh your respective opinions dispassionately, without regard to sympathy, without regard to prejudice or favor for either party, and adopt that conclusion which in your good conscience appears to be in accordance with the truth.

Again, each of you must make your own decision about the proper outcome of this case based on your consideration of the evidence and your discussions with your fellow jurors. No juror should surrender his conscientious beliefs solely for the purpose of returning a unanimous verdict.

 

78-5

When you retire, you should elect one member of the jury as your foreperson. That person will preside over the deliberations and speak for you here in open court.

 

78-6

After you have reached a verdict, your foreperson will fill in the form that has been given to you, sign and date it and advise the marshal outside your door that you are ready to return to the courtroom.

I will stress that each of you should be in agreement with the verdict which is announced in court. Once your verdict is announced by your foreperson in open court and officially recorded, it cannot ordinarily be revoked.
 

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