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Cautionary Instructions Given to Jurors in a California Criminal Jury Trial

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Jan 28, 2019

When someone serves on a jury trial, one of the big instructions that is given to them is CalCrim 101.  That really talks about the jurors' conduct during the trial.  It also discusses the participants' conduct.  One of the biggest things they want to make sure that a jury understands is that they're not to talk to the parties — either the lawyers or the defendant in a criminal jury trial in Los Angeles while the trial is pending.  A lot of times people say you can at least say hi, and be polite, but this is inappropriate.

What we're trying to do is avoid the appearance of impropriety and obviously avoid one-side or another trying to slant things with something other than evidence that's presented on the witness stand.  Really, all that jurors should be doing in a criminal jury trial in Los Angeles is looking at the evidence — evaluating what evidence there is, how strong, how weak it is, whether it proves the elements of a particular crime.

So, they're going to be told right from the beginning, listen ladies and gentlemen, the two lawyers in the case are very nice.

They're very personable, but don't take it offensively because they're not going to talk to you during the trial because they know that would be improper and impermissible and you should give them the same courtesy.  Don't talk to them.  Don't wave at them.  Don't even smile at them because they want to make sure that both sides get a fair trial. See related: Criminal Jury Instructions In Los Angeles County.

Jurors Must Evaluate Case Based on Evidence

I can't tell you how many times in the course of the last twenty-five years that we've had issues with jurors trying to talk to lawyers, making statements to lawyers, even lawyers being stupid and saying things that they shouldn't to a prospective juror.

Or, another big thing I see is that lawyers will start to have a conversation with their client or with their investigator or with somebody else and it will be a conversation that has to do with the case and one of the jurors might overhear that conversation.  That is impermissible.  That's what we don't want.  We don't want the jurors evaluating things other than what's being presented on the witness stand.

So, jurors are not to talk to the participants, not to talk to the lawyers, and of course, not to talk to the judge should they see the judge out in public.  They are only to evaluate the case based on the evidence.

Another big cautionary instruction that is given to the jurors is that they're not to do any research.  They're not to go on the internet, they're not to discuss it with their friends, they're not to discuss the criminal case with their family.  This is inappropriate because that could sway their judgment.

They are not to do research because that's not their job.  Their job is to evaluate whatever evidence comes before them, to look at the elements of whatever crime or crimes the defendant is charged with and see if the People have met their burden.

Fair Trial

If they haven't then they're to find the person not guilty, and if they have, then they will find the person guilty.  But to go outside of the evidence, to go outside of the jury instructions, to go outside of the trial that's in process and the court is wrong.

We want to make sure that the defendant and the People of the State of California get a fair trial and the only way that we can ensure that is if the jurors are only evaluating the evidence and not taking ques from the judge; not taking ques from the attorney.

So, there are situations where they're going to be tempted to research a case to look things up to see what happened on that date, to see what the attorneys are saying is accurate, but that would be inappropriate.

So, jurors are going to be instructed in a criminal case in LA not to look at anything but the evidence that's presented, and of course listen to the arguments of the attorneys, which are not evidence, but the certainly can argue the evidence and what the evidence means in a criminal trial, and then in the end, the jurors will get together, go back in a room, chose a foreperson, sit down, talk about the case and make a decision whether a person is innocent or guilty of the crime.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.