RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE A Practice Manual – Juror Questions

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RI Criminal Defense Practice Manual CoverRHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE
A Practice Manual, 4th Edition
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Juror Questions

State v. Gomes, 590 A.2d 391 (R.I. 1991). Manslaughter case involving a couple that stabbed each other. Jury came back with a question asking if defendant was guilty of manslaughter if the killing was accidental. Judge merely repeated his definition of manslaughter, which never addressed the jury question as to accident. R.I.S.C. reversed.

Repeating the original instruction is fine if it is apparent that the jury overlooked some portion of the instruction or if repeating the instruction could clear up the jurors’ confusion.
Here the jury did not overlook anything. The judge’s original instruction did not clarify their question regarding an accidental killing. The judge should have explained this clearly.
State v. Dame, 488 A.2d 418 (R.I. 1985). Arson case where the jury had a question about the fire chief’s answer as to when the fire started. The trial judge answered this question from her notes instead of reading back portions of the chief’s testimony. R.I.S.C. reversed.

A request from the jury to read back testimony should probably be honored.
If the judge attempts to summarize evidence, the summary must be complete and impartial.
Summary must be completely accurate and must not invade the fact-finding province of the jury.
Judge may not summarize only direct examination testimony if cross-examination is also pertinent to the subject of the request.

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