JACKSON, Miss. – You may find jury duty to be a burden, but serving, as a juror just got a bit easier. New Model Jury Instructions were presented Wednesday Oct. 24 at the Mississippi Supreme Court. The 21-member commission has worked since early 2009 crafting the new language intended to serve as clearer legal guidance for persons who serve on juries.
Former Chief Justice James, W. Smith signed the order to create the Mississippi Model Jury Instruction commission before he left office in 2008 he says,
“Being on the Supreme Court I saw many errors caused by jury instructions that I thought were complicated and the average juror could never understand the lingo. So when I discovered other state in the nation had simplified their instructions I approached Justice Carlson and said I think its long overdue, some 40 years we haven’t touched our model jury instructions. The fruition of this commission working so hard to accomplish this in four years is astronomical because no other state has done it that quickly.”
Mississippi Appeals Court Judge David Ishee believes the instructions will make jurors more informed and presented more simplified instructions will be less of a burden on the jurors.
“The jury instructions were first drafted in the 1970s. They were written on legal terms. The 15 years I’ve practiced law before coming on the bench I found a lot of juries get confused by them. As a practicing attorney, I would have juries where someone with a P.H.D. sat next to someone with an eighth grade education. There is no way those two interpret it the same manner. So we needed to have it in simple terms. This is going to help jurors make better decisions.”
Carol Murphy staff attorney for the Mississippi Judicial College says the commission put a lot of effort into research was done before creating the new instructions. She tells me,
“I researched other states that have started the task going toward plain language, I also consulted a thesaurus and dictionary and though about how to break down complicated thoughts into a step by step approach. The language is definitely different but the legal theories are the same.”
The commission expects the simplified jury instruction will result in more educated jurors. The could mean reducing the number of cases that are transferred to the court of appeals, which would mean fewer tax dollars spent for trail.