Jury Charges for Texas Defense Attorneys, Part 1
By Sholdon Daniels
Are you a new lawyer preparing for a trial in Texas? One key aspect of the trial process is the jury charge, as outlined in Article 36.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
Simply put, a jury charge is a set of written instructions that the judge gives to the jury at the beginning of deliberations. It sets out the relevant law and tells the jury how to apply that law to the facts of the case. This is crucial because the jury's decision must be based solely on the evidence presented in court and the applicable law.
But here's the catch: the judge cannot simply make up the jury charge on their own. Instead, they must use a charge that has been agreed upon by both the prosecution and the defense. This is where defense lawyers come in: they can submit their own proposed language for the charge before the trial begins, to ensure that the charge accurately reflects their client's position.
Do note that the judge is not allowed to express any opinion as to the weight of the evidence or to sum up the testimony in the charge. They also cannot use language that is designed to sway the jury's emotions or prejudices. The charge must be neutral and impartial, and focus solely on the applicable law.
Before the charge is read to the jury, the defendant or their lawyer has the opportunity to examine it and make written objections to any errors or omissions. This ensures that the defendant's rights are protected and that the charge is fair and accurate.
In short, the jury charge is a critical component of any trial in Texas. As a defense lawyer, it's important to understand the charge and to ensure that your client's position is accurately reflected in its language. By doing so, you can help ensure that the jury makes a fair and impartial decision based on the evidence and the law.
If you're a new lawyer heading into a trial, it's important to familiarize yourself with the requirements for a jury charge and the importance of submitting objections to ensure that your client receives a fair trial.
For more information or legal assistance, please call 1-844-SHOLDON or follow me on Twitter at @SholdonDaniels.