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7:45 AM Tue, Dec. 18th

Letter: Jury instructions


On the surface, it is a great exercise for our children to learn the trial process. In addition, it shows dedication for Judge Kelley to take her personal time to instruct the students.

My opposition comes from the use of the word "must" in the following sentence: "If you do not believe conditions rise to the level of culpable negligence, you must find (the defendant) not guilty."

In my college civics class, we also discussed the responsibility of jurors. In my opinion, the most important thing to come out of that discussion was this: "The only person with more power than a judge is a juror."

It's pretty obvious the use of the word "must" is used to bias the juror in an attempt to stop him or her from thinking outside of the box. In the juries I've been involved with, "must" is the word of choice, but I always consider "should" as a possibility.

I searched for "jury instructions" on Wikipedia and found another acceptable word in their definition: "Jury instructions are the set of legal rules that jurors ought follow when deciding a case."

Our children should always be presented the truth. If the quote had read "you should find them not guilty," I would have no objection.

Manipulation of words is age-old but, during the learning process, wording "must" be carefully scrutinized so as not to plant the wrong seed.

Ed Middlebrook