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United States v. Leroy

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 17, 2017



         I. General Instructions

         Now that you have heard the evidence and the argument, it is my duty to instruct you on the law.

         We have given you copies of the Verdict Form on which you will answer specific questions. Please take a few minutes to read the Verdict Form, because the instructions I am about to give you will help you answer those questions.

         When you retire to the jury room to deliberate, you may take these instructions with you, along with your notes, the exhibits that the Court has admitted into evidence, and the Verdict Form. You should select one member of the jury as your foreperson. That person will preside over the deliberations and speak for you here in open Court.

         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, under the appropriate burden of proof, the parties have established their claims. In other words, it is your duty to determine from the evidence what actually happened in this case, applying the law as I now explain it.

         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; do not disregard or give special attention to any one instruction; and do not question the wisdom of any rule of law or rule of evidence I state. In other words, do not substitute your own notion or opinion as to what the law is or ought to be.

         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.

         As jurors, you have a duty to consult with each other and to deliberate with the intention of reaching a verdict. Each of you must decide the case for yourself, but only after a full and impartial consideration of all of the evidence with your fellow jurors. Listen to each other carefully. In the course of your deliberations, you should feel free to re-examine your own views and to change your opinion based upon the evidence. But you should not give up your honest convictions about the evidence just because of the opinions of your fellow jurors. Nor should you change your mind just for the purpose of obtaining enough votes for a verdict.

         When you start deliberating, do not talk to the jury officer, to me, or to anyone but each other about the case. During your deliberations, you must not communicate with or provide any information to anyone by any means about this case. You may not use any electronic device or media, such as a cell phone, a smart phone like Blackberries, Droids, or iPhones, or a computer of any kind; the internet, any internet service, or any text or instant messaging service like Twitter; or any internet chat room, blog, website, or social networking service such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, or YouTube, to communicate to anyone any information about this case or to conduct any research about this case until I accept your verdict.

         If you have any questions or messages for me, you must write them down on a piece of paper, have the foreperson sign them, and give them to the jury officer. The officer will give them to me, and I will respond as soon as I can. I may have to talk to the lawyers about what you have asked, so it may take some time to get back to you.

         One more thing about messages: Never write down or tell anyone how you stand on your votes. For example, do not write down or tell anyone that a certain number is voting one way or another. Your votes should stay secret until you are finished.

         Your verdict must represent the considered judgment of each juror. In order for you as a jury to return a verdict, each juror must agree to the verdict. Your verdict must be unanimous.

         A Verdict Form has been prepared for you. It has a series of questions for you to answer. You will take this form to the jury room and when you have reached unanimous agreement as to your verdict, you will fill it in, and have your foreperson date and sign the form. You will then return to the courtroom and your foreperson will give your verdict. Unless I direct you otherwise, do not reveal your answers until you are discharged. After you have reached a verdict, you are not required to talk with anyone about the case unless I order you to do so.

         Once again, I want to remind you that nothing about my instructions and nothing about the form of verdict is intended to suggest or convey in any way or manner what I think your verdict should be. It is your sole and exclusive duty and responsibility to determine the verdict.

         II. Evidence

         What is Evidence?

         I have mentioned the word “evidence.” The “evidence” in this case consists of the testimony of witnesses, the documents and other physical items, if any, received as exhibits, and any facts stipulated by the parties.


         Counsel for parties have agreed to the legal admissibility of various exhibits. This means that these exhibits meet the requirements of the rules of evidence and therefore have been admitted for your consideration. This does not mean that the parties have agreed as to the inferences or conclusions that you should or may draw from any exhibit.

         What is Not Evidence?

         The following things are not evidence:

         1. The indictment;

         2. Statements, arguments, questions and comments by the lawyers are not evidence.

         3. Likewise, objections are not evidence. Lawyers have every right to object when they believe something is improper. You should not be influenced by the objection. If I sustained an objection to a question, you must ignore the question and must not try to guess what the answer might have been.

         4. Any testimony that I ordered stricken from the record, or told you to disregard, is not evidence and you must not consider any such matter.

         5. Anything you saw or heard about this case outside the courtroom is not evidence. You must decide the case only on the evidence presented here in the courtroom. Do not let rumors, suspicions, or anything else that you may see or hear outside of court influence your decision in any way.

         Evidence, Inferences, and Common Sense

         While you may consider only the evidence in the case in arriving at your verdict, you are permitted to draw such reasonable inferences from the testimony and exhibits you feel are justified in the light of your common experience, reason and common sense.

         Direct and Circumstantial Evidence

         Two types of evidence may be used in this trial, “direct evidence” and “circumstantial (or indirect) evidence.” You may use both types of evidence in reaching your verdict.

         “Direct evidence” is simply evidence which, if believed, directly proves a fact. An example of "direct evidence" occurs when a witness testifies about something the witness knows from his or her own senses - something the witness has seen, touched, heard, or smelled.

         “Circumstantial evidence” is evidence which, if believed, indirectly proves a fact. It is evidence that proves one or more facts from which you could reasonably find or infer the existence of some other fact or facts. A reasonable inference is simply a deduction or conclusion that reason, experience, and common sense lead you to make from the evidence. A reasonable inference is not a suspicion or a guess. It is a reasoned, logical decision to find that a disputed fact exists on the basis of another fact.

         For example, if someone walked into the courtroom wearing a wet raincoat and carrying a wet umbrella, that would be circumstantial or indirect evidence from which you could reasonably find or conclude that it was raining. You would not have to find that it was raining, but you could.

         Sometimes different inferences may be drawn from the same set of facts. The government may ask you to draw one inference, and the defense may ask you to draw another. You, and you alone, must decide what reasonable inferences you will draw based on all the evidence and your reason, experience and common sense.

         You should consider all the evidence that is presented in this trial, direct and circumstantial. The law makes no distinction between the weight that you should give to either direct or circumstantial evidence. It is for you to decide how much weight to give any evidence.

         Bias, Sympathy and Prejudice

         You may not allow sympathy or personal feelings to influence your determination. Your duty is to decide the case solely on the basis of the evidence or lack of evidence and the law as I have instructed you, without bias, prejudice, or sympathy for or against the parties or their counsel. Both the parties and the public expect that you will carefully and impartially consider all of the evidence in the case, follow the law as stated by the court, and reach a just verdict regardless of the consequences.

         Evidence Admitted for a Limited Purpose

         In certain instances evidence may be admitted only for a particular purpose and not generally for all purposes. Whenever evidence was admitted for a limited purpose, consider it only for that purpose, and no other purpose.

         Jurors' Notes

         Your notes are not evidence in the case and must not take precedence over your independent recollection of the evidence. Notes are only an aid to your recollection and are not entitled to greater weight than your recollection of what the evidence actually is. You should not disclose any notes taken to anyone other than a fellow juror.

         You were not obligated to take notes. If you did not take notes you should not be influenced by the notes of another juror, but instead should rely upon your own recollection of the evidence.

         III. Credibility of Witnesses / Weight of Testimony in General

         As I stated in my preliminary instructions at the beginning of the trial, in deciding what the facts are you must decide what testimony you believe and what testimony you do not believe. You are the sole judges of the credibility of the witnesses. Credibility refers to whether a witness is worthy of belief: Was the witness truthful? Was the witness' testimony accurate? You may believe everything a witness says, or only part of it, or none of it. You may decide whether to believe a witness based on his or her behavior and manner of testifying, the explanations the witness gave, and all the other evidence in the case, just as you would in any important matter where you are trying to decide if a person is truthful, straightforward, and accurate in his or her recollection. In deciding the question of credibility, remember to use your common sense, your good judgment, and your experience. In deciding what to believe, you may consider a number of factors:

(1) The opportunity and ability of the witness to see or hear or know the things about which the witness testified;
(2) The quality of the witness' knowledge, understanding, and memory;
(3) The witness' appearance, behavior, and manner while testifying;
(4) Whether the witness has an interest in the outcome of the case or any motive, bias, or prejudice;
(5) Any relation the witness may have with a party in the case and any effect the verdict ...

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