As criminal defense attorneys in Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange and Rockland counties in New York it is very important for all criminal defense trial lawyers to know and understand the specific jury charges to help win the case. The best criminal defense lawyersin New York prepare for the jury charge early as it is the last instruction to the jury from the judge.
What are jury instructions in New York Criminal Defense?
In New York, jury instructions are carefully written to explain to a jury what their duties are when they judge the facts of a case. On jury duty there are also instructions at jury selection and at the start of a trial. All of these instructions are designed to keep the jurors informed as to their role and what is expected out of every juror as they sit on a case. The most important jury instructions are the last instructions the jury will hear before they deliberate and determine if an accused is guilty. This part of the process is also call the "jury charge".
In every case there are basis general instructions the jury will hear including the following:
1. The Definition of Reasonable Doubt -- The government's burden of proof.
2. Presumption of Innocence -- The accused is innocent until proven guilty.
3. Witness Credibility
4. The accused is not required to testify
5. Interested Witnesses
6. The types of evidence offered -- Direct vs. Circumstantial
Crime Specific Instructions
The additional and most important instructions to an accused are the ones that pertain to the case. Such as the instruction related to the crime charged. For example, robbery, larceny, assault, possession/sale of drugs, DWI, possession of a weapon, arson and any other crime under the New York Penal Law have a jury instruction. The instruction is a description of what needs to be proven to sustain the charge.
Instructions as to Certain Defenses
Some defenses an accused may want to take advantage of also have a charge such as self defense, entrapment, duress, alibi, intoxication. The top criminal defense attorneys will review any necessary instruction with their clients to determine what needs to be proven at trial.
These instructions have to do with certain aspects of the case that deal with the prosecution such as identification of witnesses or the defendant, voluntariness of statements, missing witnesses, police officers as witnesses, character witnesses, co-defendant's evidence and flight. These instructions are important since they can be used in the legal strategy of the case to show the accused is not guilty.
The Charge Conference
After the evidence is finished being presented to the jury the judge, district attorney and the defense attorney participate in a jury charge conference where they agree or argue about the proper charges to the jury. Many cases are won or lost in the jury charge conference and often rookie defense attorneys will overlook this important step in the process.
One the charges are set the judge will read them to the jury. Afterwards the jury is allowed to deliberate on guilt or innocence.
The top criminal defense attorneys always pay particular attention to the jury instructions and make that process and important aspect of the case.