The Role of Incorrect Jury Instructions

Jury instructions are written instructions from a judge and given to the jurors for jury deliberation, which occurs after both sides present evidence and make closing arguments at the end of a trial. These instructions are meant to guide the jury on basic deliberation procedure and provide the substance of the law on which to apply to the facts of the case and make their verdict. 

Jury instructions are important to educate jurors on their role, the issues surrounding the case, how each party should conduct themselves during the trial, and the law that applies to the case. They must clearly and concisely explain what is being asked of the jury. 

Furthermore, jury instructions serve as the law of the case. Lawyers generally consult jury instructions prior to filing complaints by performing research on the current state of law to make sure that the standard instructions adequately reflect it, as well as informing jurors how to apply these instructions to the evidence presented. 

If a judge gives the jury the wrong legal standards to apply or otherwise improper instructions, they may find a defendant guilty when they should have reached a different verdict. If the judge in your case gave the jury incomplete or incorrect instructions, you may appeal your conviction and seek a new trial. 

A new trial will be ordered if: 

  • The court had a duty to provide correct jury instructions; 

  • There was supporting evidence of the proper jury instructions; and 

  • Incomplete or incorrect jury instructions impacted the result of the trial. 

The panel of appellate judges will review the jury instructions for error on appeal. The appellate court will determine which instructions were requested and ultimately given, if the given instructions match the written instructions, and what objections were made. 

If you or a loved one has recently convicted of a federal offense and wish to appeal the verdict, contact Martin G. Weinberg, Attorney at Law today at (617) 227-3700 to get more than 40 years of federal appeals experience on your side.