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Jury Instructions


Those who participate in a trial must do so in accordance with established rules. this is true of the witnesses, the lawyers and the judge. It is equally true of you as jurors. The lawyers present the evidence according to rules; the judge enforces the rules and determines what evidence may be admitted.

The trial procedure is as follows: first, the lawyers outline in their opening statements what the evidence will be. Then the plaintiffs offer their evidence; next the defendants may offer evidence; then the plaintiffs may present rebuttal evidence. The trial concludes with closing arguments by the lawyers and the final instructions of law from me, after which you will retire to deliberate on a verdict.

Before we hear the opening statements of counsel and begin to take evidence, I believe it would be helpful if you were to have some preliminary instructions to follow in listening to and considering the evidence that you will hear in this case. Later, after you have heard all of the evidence, I will give you further instructions covering additional law that you are to follow in this case. It is the duty of the judge to instruct you in the law, and it is your duty to follow the law as I will state it to you both now and at the conclusion of all the evidence.

First of all, it is your exclusive duty to decide all questions of fact submitted to you. In connection with this duty you must determine the effect and value of evidence. You must not be influenced in your decision by sympathy, prejudice, or passion toward any party, witness or lawyer in the case.

If in these instructions or in instructions that I will give you at the conclusion of the evidence, any principle or idea is repeated or stated in varying ways, no emphasis is intended, and none must be inferred by you. Therefore, you must not single out any particular sentence or individual point or instruction and ignore the others, but rather you are to consider all of the instructions as a whole and are to consider each instruction in relation to all of the other instructions. The fact that I give you some of the instructions now and some at the conclusion of the evidence has no significance as to their relative importance, nor does the order in which I give you the instructions.

The lawyers for the parties will, of course, have active roles in the trial. They will make opening statements to you, question witnesses and make objections, and finally will argue the case as the last step. Remember that lawyers are not witnesses, and since it is your duty to decide the case solely on the evidence that you see or hear in the case, you must not consider as evidence statements of the lawyers. There is an exception, and that is if the lawyers agree to any fact. Such agreement (stipulation or admission) will be brought to your attention, and it will then be your duty to regard such fact as being conclusively proved without necessity of further evidence.

If a question is asked and an objection to the question is sustained, you will then not hear the answer and you must not speculate as to what the answer might have been or the reason for the objection. If an answer is given to a question and the court then grants a motion to strike out the answer, you are to completely disregard such question and answer and not consider them for any purpose. A question in and of itself is not evidence, and may be considered by you only as it supplies meaning to the answer.

During the course of the trial certain testimony may be read into evidence from a written transcript or show to you by video. This testimony has been taken under oath before trial and typed up into a booklet for use by the lawyers. This testimony, known as a deposition, is to be considered by you the same as if all such questions and answers were given here in the court from the witness stand.

As jurors, you have the sole and exclusive duty to decide the credibility of the witnesses who will testify in this case, which simply means that it is you who must decide whether to believe or disbelieve a particular witness. In determining these questions, you will apply the tests of truthfulness that you apply in your daily lives. These tests include the appearance of each witness on the stand; his or her manner of testifying; the reasonableness of the testimony; the opportunity he or she had to see, hear and know the things concerning which he or she testified; his or her accuracy of memory; frankness or lack of it; intelligence; interest and bias, if any; together with all the facts and circumstances surrounding the testimony. Applying these tests you will assign to the testimony of each witness such weight as you deem proper. You are not required to believe the testimony of any witness simply because it was given under oath. You may believe or disbelieve all or any part of the testimony of any witness.

You should not decide any issue of fact merely on the basis of the number of witnesses who testify on each side of an issue. Rather, the final test in judging evidence should be the force and weight of the evidence, regardless of the number of witnesses on each side of an issue. The testimony of one witness believed by you is sufficient to prove any fact.

Also, any discrepancies in a witness’ testimony or between his or her testimony and that of others does not necessarily mean that you should believe the witness, as people commonly forget facts or recollect them erroneously after the passage of time. You are certainly aware that two persons who witness the same incident may often see or hear it differently. In considering a discrepancy in testimony, you should consider whether such discrepancy concerns an important fact or a trivial one.

If you conclude that a witness has willfully lied in his or her testimony, you would then have the right to reject all of that witness’ testimony, unless, from all the evidence, you believe that the probability of truth favors his or her testimony in other particulars.

This concludes my preliminary instructions to you, and I hope that they will be of some assistance to you in listening to and considering the evidence. Please keep these instructions in mind as you listen to the evidence and statements of counsel.

We are now ready for the opening statements of counsel. I remind you these statements are not evidence, but rather an opportunity for the lawyers to tell you what they believe the evidence will be in support of their respective positions.