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CRIMINAL JURY INSTRUCTIONS 2d


OVERVIEW OF METHODOLOGY


The Committee on Criminal Jury Instructions is pleased to present this internet edition of the Criminal Jury Instructions, Second Edition (CJI2d). It is the only current and official publication of CJI2d charges, and replaces all CJI2d charges previously published in a  printed format.  

The first edition of the Criminal Jury Instructions (CJI 1st edition) was published in three books: book I contained charges of "general applicability" and books II and III contained charges for crimes defined primarily by the Penal Law.

CJI2d supersedes CJI 1st edition.


The CJI2d Committee does not receive adversarial  briefs or arguments on unresolved legal issues related to a charge.  Such issues are left to the learned and sound discretion of the trial court.

CJI2d Charges for Crimes

Experience teaches that jurors have difficulty comprehending overly long and complex legal instructions. For charges on specific crimes, therefore, CJI2d adopted a new format designed to make jury instructions shorter and simpler without sacrificing completeness.

The original CJI charges on specific crimes generally called for: (1) a reading of the count of the accusatory instrument, (2) a reading of the statutory definition of the crime, (3) a listing of the elements of the crime, interrupted by definitions of terms used, and (4) a recapitulation of the elements within a direction to the jury regarding its obligation to convict or acquit.

CJI2d revised this format in the following ways:

(1) CJI2d charges begin with the statutory definition of the crime, dispensing with the reading of the count as set forth in the accusatory instrument. (The statutory definitions and other portions of the charge have been made gender-neutral with statutory language altered as necessary).

The Committee concluded that a reading of both the count charging the crime and the statutory definition of the crime needlessly lengthened the charge, was largely redundant, and could be confusing. Where the indictment or bill of particulars makes specific factual allegations which limit the prosecution's theory, (e.g., the crime intended inside the dwelling during a burglary was larceny), CJI 2d charges provide for, or allow, the integration of those allegations either into the definitions of terms or the listed elements, or both.

Additionally, the Committee concluded that no purpose is served by telling jurors the section numbers of statutes. Thus, CJI2d discontinued the practice of beginning statutory definitions with references to the sections in which they appear. For the convenience of the judge, those references are provided in the headings of the charges and in footnotes.

(2) Following the statutory definition of the crime, CJI2d charges give the meanings of the terms used. Definitions of terms are drawn principally from statutes and case law. The sources of all definitions are identified in footnotes.

The Committee concluded that, when jurors are given the meaning of relevant terms immediately after hearing the statutory definition of the crime, they are better able to comprehend the definition and are better prepared to understand the elements they are about to hear.

(3) Immediately after the definition of terms, CJI2d charges list the elements of the crime without interruption. Most often, the listing begins with the conduct or result elements followed by the requisite mens rea. The elements are read only once, and every effort has been made to minimize their number and complexity.

The Committee concluded that an uninterrupted listing of the elements, immediately following the definitions of relevant terms, enhances the jury's ability to understand and focus on what the People must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

(4) CJI2d charges conclude with a brief, simplified direction to the jury regarding its obligation to convict or acquit. Where an affirmative defense has been raised, an alternative concluding instruction is provided, defining the affirmative defense and the burden of proof applicable to it.

The applicability of the charge is set forth in the caption to the charge that sets forth the name of the crime and other identifying information. In particular, the caption provides the date of the most recent amendment of the statute defining the crime. The charge is drawn in contemplation of the crime alleged having been committed on or after that date. If a CJI2d charge exists for the crime committed prior to that date, it appears under the heading of “Former Charges.”

In the text of the charge, material enclosed in brackets is generally introduced either by the heading: “NOTE: Add where appropriate:” or the word: “or.” The first indicates that the judge may elect to charge the bracketed material because of the particular facts of the case. The second requires the judge to choose from among alternatives, with the choice dictated by the specific allegations in the accusatory instrument. In some charges, the requirement that the judge choose one or more alternatives is signaled by the heading: “Select appropriate alternative(s).”

Expanded definitions of the culpable mental states of intent and knowledge are listed in the “General” charges. Expanded definitions or presumptions that relate to a particular crime appear under the heading: " Additional Charges" and follow the charges for all the crimes defined in the particular article of the Penal Law.