Their inexperience is part of what makes a jury valuable. The jury has nothing to gain or lose from
the verdict, and jurors have very little experience with the criminal system. Ideally, jurors do not
know anyone involved in the trial, and they can give an objective opinion on the case.
While their inexperience is a tremendous asset, it can also be a liability. The jury depends on the
instructions they receive along the way as well as information from the people involved in the trial
to guide them in making the correct decision.
These are some of the most common reasons a jury does not understand their instructions.
Many people are not comfortable speaking up when they need more explanation. The more
intimidating the situation is, the less likely someone will be to ask for clarification.
The courtroom is one of those intimidating situations. It does not take much for a juror to look
around and realize the power in the room. It can be easy for a juror to feel out of place between the
judge, the attorneys, and the other jurors.
When jury instructions are hard to understand, the verdict can be in the hands of someone who is
not only unfamiliar with the criminal justice system but who also do not know what that system
expects of them. Jurors with unclear instructions cannot give a knowledgeable verdict.
Applying the instructions
One of the first skills a lawyer learns in school is how to apply the rule to the case. The concept is
drilled so consistently and used so frequently that it can be easy to forget that jurors may not have
the same skill. Jurors need to know what the instructions are and how to use them.
When the jury from your case considers how to decide, they need to have clear instructions on the
rules and how to apply those rules to what they learned about the case. If there is a breakdown on
either end, it can lead to a jury error because of the instructions.