Who does the jury charges in your jurisdictions?
The court with suggested input by attorneys is the way I have always thought it was supposed to be done. However, around here it is expected that the DA's office would prepare the charge and the defense objects and gets the court the court to order us to add, delete, and/or generally criticise what we have done. And god help you if you don't have something the court thinks definately needs to be there . . .
Anyway, does anyone else have to do this?
We're split here in Collin County. Our county court judges generally do the charge themselves, with both sides making suggestions and objections. But in district court, our office always prepares the charge. I prefer it that way, actually, because you get to have the majority of the phrasing the way you want it, and you know you haven't accidentally left off something important.
That's the way we do it here as well. I find it helpful in preparing for trial, and fleshing out issues that may not be apparent from simply reading the offense reports. On the down side, there are many times that we are left tweaking the charge during lunch, breaks, evenings, etc. I am finishing trial this week, and that part can be particularly frustrating.
And it is annoying when, prior to closing arguments, the judge announces to the jury: "The Court, with assistance from counsel, has prepared the charge..."
We do all of ours, with the exception of one court.
We prepare all the jury charges in Colorado County.
We do the charges in Waller County.
I prepare all of my charges. I use the Texas Practice forms and my judge has ruled on the basic language enough that we avoid alot of "creative" charges.
We always do our own jury charges. From an appellate standpoint, a lot of the reversals come from faulty jury charges. So we want to make sure ours cover all the bases.
I have started doing mine, guilt-innocence and punishment. I find it helps focus on the issues and also helps me pick up of defense possibles like self defense, lesser included, etc.
We draft the jury charge. Our office policy is for the trial prosecutor to have a draft ready on the Friday before trial begins. I believe this helps the prosecutor to finalize, before voir dire, the legal issues that need to be discussed with the jury panel. I also think it helps make sure the prosecutor has read the indictment carefully and avoided any gaps or mistakes that could prove to be embarrassing in court.
Resurrecting this old thread to see if anyone who didn't want to prepare the jury charge for the court was able to successfully fend off that work. (I understand the advantages to preparing the charge, but I also don't see where a judge can legally mandate it if the prosecutor doesn't want to do it.)
If so, please email me.
In Nueces County, we got our Board of Judges to approve a template for the felony jury charge based on the Texas Criminal Pattern Jury Charges. The template is a form in Odyssey that we can pull down and populate for each case. It certainly doesn't eliminate the need for someone (judge or prosecutor) to insert the specific charging language for the offense, defenses, etc., but it does provide a good starting point for preparing the charge.
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