It is the end of your medical malpractice trial and the attorneys have made their closing arguments. Now the judge locks the courtroom door, and gives the jury an hour’s worth of legal instructions that they have to follow in order to reach a decision on this case. However, what happens if the jury does not truly understand all of the judge’s instruction? Can they ask the judge to clarify some of those guidelines?
Jury can Ask the Judge for Clarifications
The answer is yes, the jury can ask the judge to clarify certain instructions that he just gave them. Will the judge do it? Yes, he will clarify by focusing on that particular instruction that the jury did not understand. He will reread the instruction to them and then most likely explain to the jury in layman’s terms what that instruction really means. After that, the judge will ask the jury to go back and start deliberating over who is most likely right than wrong.
Verdict can be Overturned by Appeals Court
The jury will go back to deliberate and then reach a verdict. However, what happens if the losing party believes that they lost the case because of the judge’s clarification on the issue of law that the jury was confused about. The losing party will file an appeal, and the appellate court or the higher court will first look to see if the legal instruction given by the judge was appropriate for this case.
If the instruction is found to be appropriate for the case, the appellate court will then look to see if the judge’s clarification, the exact words that he used to try and make it simple for the jury to understand, was legally appropriate. If they find the explanation given by the judge was not appropriate, there is a possibility the appeals court might overturn the verdict. There are number of options available to the court to proceed further if this is the situation that lies in front of them.
It is critically important that the jury understands the legal instructions given by the judge. If they do not understand any instructions, they have the right to raise their hands and ask for clarification. The jury could ask the judge:
· What did you mean by preponderance of proof?
· Judge, we did not understand what causation meant.
· Why are the standards of care for this physician in this medical malpractice case is different from the standards of care of a driver in a car accident case?
The Jury’s Right
The jury will have such doubts because they might not have a legal background and when the legal instruction is given the first time, they might not understand it or may not understand the full implications of the instruction. The jury can ask the judge for any clarification they may need on the instructions he has given, and the judge is obligated to clarify the same.
If for some reason the judge is unable to clarify the jury’s doubt sufficiently, and the case is lost because of it, the losing party can file an appeal and have the verdict overturned and live to see another day.