United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
Members of the jury, now it is time for me to instruct you
about the law that you must follow in deciding this case. I
will start by explaining your duties and the general rules
that apply in every criminal case. Then I will explain the
elements, or parts, of the crime that the defendant is
accused of committing. Then I will explain some rules that
you must use in evaluating particular testimony and evidence.
And last, I will explain the rules that you must follow
during your deliberations in the jury room, and the possible
verdicts that you may return. Please listen very carefully to
everything I say.
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
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, and these instructions. All the
instructions are important, and you should consider them
together as a whole.
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.
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.
of Innocence, Burden of Proof, and Reasonable Doubt
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.
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.
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
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.
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 a reasonable doubt, say so by returning a guilty
verdict. If you are not convinced, say so by returning a not
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.
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.
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.
your decision based only on the evidence, as I have defined
it here, and nothing else.
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
and Circumstantial Evidence
some of you may have heard the terms “direct
evidence” and “circumstantial evidence.”
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
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 circumstantial evidence from which
you could conclude that it was raining.
your job to decide how much weight to give the direct and
circumstantial evidence. The law makes no distinction between
the weight that you should give to either one, or say that
one is any better evidence than the other. You should
consider all the evidence, both direct and circumstantial,
and give it whatever weight you believe it deserves.
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.
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.
more point about the witnesses. Sometimes jurors wonder if
the number of witnesses who testified makes any difference.
make any decisions based only 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.
is one more general subject that I want to talk to you about
before I begin ...