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United States v. Slaughter

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

June 28, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF
v.
TOMMY M. SLAUGHTER DEFENDANT

          JURY INSTRUCTIONS

         These instructions will be in three parts: first, general rules that define and control your duties as jurors; second, the rules of law that you must apply in deciding whether the Government has proven its case, and third, some rules for your deliberations. A copy of these instructions will be available to you in the jury room.

         I. GENERAL RULES CONCERNING JURY DUTY

         You have two main duties as jurors. The first one is to decide what the facts are from the evidence that you saw and heard here in court. Deciding what the facts are is your job, not mine, and nothing that I have said or done during this trial was meant to influence your decision about the facts in any way. Your second duty is to take the law that I give you, apply it to the facts, and decide if the Government has proved the Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

         It is my job to instruct you about the law, and you are bound by the oath that you took at the beginning of the trial to follow the instructions that I give you, even if you personally disagree with them. This includes the instructions that I gave you before and during the trial. All the instructions are important, and you should consider them together as a whole. The lawyers have talked about the law during their arguments. But if what they said is different from what I say, you must follow what I say. What I say about the law controls.

         Perform these duties fairly. Do not let any bias, sympathy or prejudice that you may feel toward one side or the other influence your decision in any way.

         A. Presumption of Innocence, Burden of Proof, Reasonable Doubt

         As you know, the Defendant has pleaded not guilty to the crime charged in the indictment. The indictment is not any evidence at all of guilt. It is just the formal way that the Government tells the Defendant what crime he is accused of committing. It does not even raise any suspicion of guilt.

         Instead, the Defendant starts the trial with a clean slate, with no evidence at all against him, and the law presumes that he is innocent. This presumption of innocence stays with him unless the Government presents evidence here in court that overcomes the presumption, and convinces you beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty. This means that the Defendant has no obligation to present any evidence at all, or to prove to you in any way that he is innocent. It is up to the Government to prove that he is guilty, and this burden stays on the Government from start to finish. You must find the Defendant not guilty unless the Government convinces you beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty.

         The Government must prove every element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond all possible doubt. Possible doubts or doubts based purely on speculation are not reasonable doubts. A reasonable doubt is a doubt based on reason and common sense. It may arise from the evidence, the lack of evidence, or the nature of the evidence. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt means proof which is so convincing that you would not hesitate to rely and act on it in making the most important decisions in your own lives. If you are convinced that the Government has proved the Defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt, say so by returning a guilty verdict. If you are not convinced, then say so by returning a not guilty verdict.

         B. Evidence

         You must make your decision based only on the evidence that you saw and heard here in court. Do not let rumors, suspicions, or anything else that you may have seen or heard outside of court influence your decision in any way. The evidence in this case includes only what the witnesses said while they were testifying under oath; the exhibits that I allowed into evidence; the stipulations that the lawyers agreed to; and the facts that I have judicially noticed.

         Nothing else is evidence. The lawyers' statements and arguments are not evidence. Their questions and objections are not evidence. My legal rulings are not evidence. And my comments and questions are not evidence.

         During the trial I did not let you hear the answers to some of the questions that the lawyers asked. Do not speculate about what a witness might have said. These things are not evidence, and you are bound by your oath not to let them influence your decision in any way.

         Make your decision based only on the evidence, as I have defined it here, and nothing else.

         You should use your common sense in weighing the evidence. Consider it in light of your everyday experience with people and events, and give it whatever weight you believe it deserves. If your experience tells you that certain evidence reasonably leads to a conclusion, you are free to reach that conclusion.

         C. Credibility of Witnesses

         Another part of your job as jurors is to decide how credible or believable each witness was. This is your job, not mine. It is up to you to decide if a witness's testimony was believable, and how much weight you think it deserves. You are free to believe everything that a witness said, or only part of it, or none of it at all. But you should act reasonably and carefully in making these decisions.

         Let me suggest some things for you to consider in evaluating each witness's testimony.

(a) Ask yourself if the witness was able to clearly see or hear the events. Sometimes even an honest witness may not have been able to see or hear what was happening, and may make a mistake.
(b) Ask yourself how good the witness's memory seemed to be. Did the witness seem able to accurately remember what happened?
(c) Ask yourself if there was anything else that may have interfered with the witness's ability to perceive or remember the events.
(d) Ask yourself how the witness acted while testifying. Did the witness appear honest? Or did the witness appear to be lying?
(e) Ask yourself if the witness had any relationship to the Government or the Defendant, or anything to gain or lose from the case, that have might influenced the witness's testimony. Ask yourself if the witness had any bias, or prejudice, or reason for testifying that might cause the witness to lie or to slant the testimony in favor of one side or the other.
(f) And ask yourself how believable the witness's testimony was in light of all the other evidence. Was the witness's testimony supported or contradicted by other evidence that you found believable? If you believe that a witness's testimony was contradicted by other evidence, remember that people sometimes forget things, and that even two honest people who witness the same event may not describe it exactly the same way.

         These are only some of the things that you may consider in deciding how believable each witness was. You may also consider other things that you think shed some light on the witness's believability. Use your common sense and your everyday experience in dealing with other people. And then decide what testimony you believe, and how much weight you think it deserves.

         One more important point about witnesses. Sometimes jurors wonder if the number of witnesses who testified makes any difference. Do not make any decisions based solely on the number of witnesses who testified. What is more important is how believable the witnesses were, and how much weight you think their testimony deserves. Concentrate on that, not the numbers.

         D. Lawyers' Objections

         There is one more general subject that I want to talk to you about before I begin explaining the elements of the crime charged. The lawyers for both sides objected to some of the things that were said or done during the trial. Do not hold that against either side. The lawyers have a duty to object whenever they think that something is not permitted by the rules of evidence. Those rules are designed to make sure that both sides receive a fair trial.

         Do not interpret my rulings on their objections as any indication of how I think the case should be decided. My rulings were based on the rules of evidence, not on how I feel about the case. Remember that your decision must be based only on the evidence that you saw and heard here in court.

         E. State of Mind

         Next, I want to explain something about proving a defendant's state of mind.

         Ordinarily, there is no way that a defendant's state of mind can be proved directly, because no one can read another person's mind and tell what that person is thinking.

         But a defendant's state of mind can be proved indirectly from the surrounding circumstances. This includes things like what the defendant said, what the defendant did, how the defendant acted, and any other facts or circumstances in evidence that show what was in the defendant's mind.

         You may also consider the natural and probable results of any acts that the Defendant knowingly did, and whether it is reasonable to conclude that the Defendant intended those results. This, of course, is all for you to decide.

         F. Direct & Circumstantial Evidence

         Now, I mentioned the terms "direct evidence" and "circumstantial evidence" when I spoke to you at the start of the case.

         Direct evidence is simply evidence like the testimony of an eyewitness which, if you believe it, directly proves a fact. If a witness testified that he saw it raining outside, and you believed him, that would be direct evidence that it was raining.

         Circumstantial evidence is simply a chain of circumstances that indirectly proves a fact. If someone walked into the courtroom wearing a raincoat covered with drops of water and carrying a wet umbrella, that would be ...


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