July 7, 2015 • Legal Terminology
Judge Controls all Trial Proceedings
At a trial of a personal injury case, which can be an accident case, medical malpractice case, or even a wrongful death case, the judge will be in charge of supervising and controlling the courtroom. In every instance, the judge will instruct the jury not to discuss the case amongst themselves during any of the breaks. The judge will make it clear to the jurors that they are not to talk about the
case during the breaks and when they leave for the day. Why does the judge give this instruction to the jury?
Why Jurors cannot Discuss the Case during Breaks?
The judge gives this particular instruction because the jury has not yet heard all the information regarding the case, they have not yet heard all the testimonies, they have not yet heard all the legal arguments, and most importantly the jury has not yet been informed about the legal instructions that the judge gives them at the very end of the trial.
The judge does not want the jurors to start discussing the situation between themselves, what the different testimonies might mean. One juror might ask the other, what he thinks about a particular witness and his testimony. The jurors are likely to have many questions based upon their initial gut feelings, and the moment people start talking about their impressions, it will color their thinking. It is like when you come out after seeing a movie and you listen to people giving their opinions about the movie, and this may change what you originally thought about the movie when it ended.
During the trial, the jury goes to the jury room for a break, and the jurors will sit and chat with each other. In such a scenario, they are most likely to talk about the case. Therefore, specifically judge will instruct jury not to discuss the case amongst themselves during these breaks.
The judge does not want the jury to go ahead and get initial impressions from different jurors, as each one chimes in their opinions about a particular witness or about a particular cross-examination question and so on. The judge does not want the jurors to talk about the case because they have not heard everything yet. This does seem sort of illogical but it is the rules.
What if a jury member wants to confirm someone’s name or a fact about the testimony? You have to take exceptional notes so you do not have these questions. Yes, this does seem like backward logic but it is the rules.
The judge will instruct jurors to hold their thoughts until the very end of the case. Once they have heard the entire case, all the testimonies, and all the legal instructions pertaining to the case, then they can go to the jury room and begin deliberating. This is the time when they can start exchanging ideas about who is right and who is wrong, and whether the victim has been able to show them that he is more likely right than wrong.
Therefore, in all civil matters in New York, the judge will instruct jury not to discuss the case amongst themselves until the end of trial. Then it is time for them to deliberate over the case.