Many studies reveal that jurors are often confused by jury instructions because of their technical nature, use of legal terms, and lack of organization. Research results strongly suggest that bench-bar jury instruction committees be expanded to include or use the services of experts in communication, psychology, and psycholinguistics as well as lay people, including former jurors. Experts agree on the following general goals for reform: (1) drafting instructions with jurors in mind, (2) making them clear, simple, and case-specific (by using the parties’ names, actual fact issues, and examples from the case), and (3) reducing the number and length of instructions to the absolute minimum.
Alan Reifman, et al., “Real Jurors’ Understanding of the Law in Real Cases”, 16 Law & Hum. Behav. 539, 547, 556 (1992) (reporting survey of former jurors that revealed they understood instructions on substantive law less than one-half of the time).
Valerie P. Hans & Neil Vidmar, Judging the Jury 120-122 (1986).
Jury Comprehension in Complex Cases, 1989 A.B.A. Litig. Sec. Rep. 43-52.
Lawrence J. Severance & Elizabeth F. Loftus, “Improving the Ability of Jurors to Comprehend and Apply Criminal Jury Instructions”, 17 Law & Soc’y. Rev. 153, 161 (1982) (presenting the results of three studies on jury instruction comprehension).
Walter W. Steele & Elizabeth G. Thornberg, “Jury Instructions: A Persistent Failure to Communicate”, 74 Judicature 249, 251 (1991).
David U. Strawn & G. Thomas Buchanan, “Jury Confusion: A Threat to Justice”, 59 Judicature 478, 480-82 (1976);
G. Thomas Munsterman, et al., Jury Trial Innovations, 163-170.
B. Michael Dann, “Educated & Democratic Juries”, 68 Indiana L.J. 1229 (1993).