A tough criminal jury instruction

From an opinion of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, I quote the following instruction used in a criminal case in Texas:

“You are instructed that any evidence which, in your opinion, mitigates against the imposition of the Death Penalty, including any aspect of the defendant’s reputation, character, or record, or any of the circumstances of the commission of the offense which have been admitted in evidence before you, may be sufficient to cause you to have a reasonable doubt as to whether or not the true answer to any of the special issues is ‘yes’; and in the event such evidence does so cause you to have such a reasonable doubt, you should answer the issue ‘no.’”

That’s tough to follow, isn’t it?

For what its worth, here’s some data:

  • 96 words per sentence
  • 23 Flesch Reading Ease Score (out of 100; 60 is plain)
  • 22 Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (10 years beyond high school)

But it would be tough to revise, too. Revising jury instructions isn’t easy, and revising criminal jury instructions can be really tough. Or so I’ve been told by a law professor who was working on the committee to redraft California’s jury instructions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.