by: Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm
In the recently concluded trial against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, the jurors came to refer to it as “The Bible,” based both on its power and on its frequently obscure meaning. In this case, the “it” being 105 pages of fairly complex instructions coming at the end of a thirty-nine day trial. The resulting fourteen days of deliberations were filled with heated arguments, and frequently unsatisfying attempts to understand exactly what the law was asking them to do. While some experienced trial lawyers cling to the belief that juries routinely disregard the instructions and substitute their own personal notions of fairness, the lesson of the Blagojevich trial, as well as our experience in a great many other trials, is that jurors will strive mightily to understand and apply the instructions – they just won’t necessarily have an easy time of it. Your role in trial is to help make it easier for them.