Section 27. Determination of law by juries; charge to all juries, reversal of causes for technical error; affirmation of understanding.
... B. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY LAW TO THE CONTRARY, IN ANY JURY TRIAL IN WHICH THE STATE OR ONE OF ITS POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS IS A PARTY THE JUDGE SHALL INFORM THE JURORS THAT IN ADDITION TO THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO JUDGE THE FACTS OF THE CASE, THEY HAVE AN INHERENT RIGHT TO JUDGE THE LAW.
To amend and reenact Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 802, relative to jury charges; to require the trial judge to inform the jury of their right to judge the merits and applicability of the law; and to provide for related matters. Be it enacted by the Legislature of Louisiana: Section 1. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 802 is hereby amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ART. 802. General charge; scope. The court shall charge the jury:
(1) as to the law applicable to the case;
(2) That the jury is the judge of the law and of the facts on the question of guilt or innocence, that it may accept and apply the law as given by the court or it may judge the merits and application of the law; and
(3) That the jury alone shall determine the weight and credibility of the evidence.
The language of these bills was as follows:
Section 1. Inform jurors the nature and extent of their duties and responsibilities. The handbook for jurors shall inform jurors in all cases they have the historical, constitutional and natural right to judge not only liability, guilt or innocence of the defendant(s) under the law as charged but must also exercise their conscience in doing so and that if they determine in their conscience that the law as charged by the judge is unjust or wrongly applied to defendant(s). Jurors have the obligation, right and duty to judge according to their conscience.
Section 2. Educational materials and instructions shall inform grand jurors they have the historical, constitutional and natural right to judge not only the guilt or innocence of defendant(s), under the law as charged but must also exercise their conscience in doing so if they determine according to their conscience the law as charged in the indictment is unjust or wrongly applied to defendant(s) it is their obligation, right and duty not to retain an indictment according to their conscience.
Section 3. The orientation of jurors shall include informing the grand and trial jurors of their historical, constitutional and material right to judge not only liability, guilt or innocence of the defendant(s) but must also exercise their conscience that the law as charged is unjust or wrongly applied to defendant(s) it is their obligation, right and duty to judge according to their conscience or not to find a time bill as the case may be.
In its charge, the court must state the fundamental legal principles applicable to criminal cases in general. Such principles include, but are not limited to, the presumption of the defendant's innocence, the requirement that guilt be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and that the jury may not, in determining the issue of guilt or innocence, consider or speculate concerning matters relating to sentence or punishment. Upon request of a defendant who did not testify in his own behalf, but not otherwise, the court must state that the fact that he did not testify is not a factor from which any inference unfavorable to the defendant may be drawn. The court must also state the material legal principles applicable to the particular case, and, so far as practicable, explain the application of the law to the facts, but it need not marshal or refer to the evidence to any greater extent than is necessary for such explanation. Upon request of a defendant, the court must also state that the jury has the final authority to decide whether or not to apply the law to the facts before it, that it is appropriate to bring into its deliberations the feelings of the community and its own feelings based on conscience, and that nothing would bar the jury from acquitting the defendant if it feels that the law, as applied to the facts, would produce an inequitable or unjust result.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE:
SECTION 1. The title of this act is and may be cited as "The Fully Informed Jury Act".
SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 22, is amended by adding Section 3 as a new, appropriately designated section;
(a) In any criminal trial, the court must inform the jury of its right to judge both law and facts in reaching a verdict. The court must also inform civil trial jurors of their right to judge the law as well as the facts whenever the government or any agent of the government is a party to the trial.
Trial jurors must acknowledge by oath that they understand this right, and no party to the trial may be prevented from encouraging them to exercise it. No potential juror may be disqualified from serving on a jury because he expresses a willingness to judge the law or its application, or to vote according to conscience.
Failure to inform the jury, or any other infraction of these rules of procedure, is grounds for mistrial and another trial by jury.
(b) Before the jury hears a criminal case, and again before jury deliberation begins, the court shall inform the jurors of their rights in these words:
As jurors, your first responsibility is to decide whether the defendant has broken the law. If you decide that he has, but that you cannot in good conscience support a guilty verdict, you are not required to do so. To reach a verdict which you believe is just, each of you has the right to consider to what extent the defendant's actions have actually caused harm or otherwise violated your sense of right and wrong. If you believe justice requires it, you may also judge both the merits of the law under which he has been charged and the wisdom of applying that law to the defendant. Accordingly, for each charge against the defendant, even if review of the evidence strictly in terms of the law would indicate a guilty verdict, you have the right to find him innocent. The court cautions that with the exercise of this right comes full moral responsibility for the verdict you bring in.