VI. TRIAL

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Rule 24.1: Juror Information.

(a) Notetaking.

(1) Notetaking Allowed. The court shall instruct jurors that they may take notes during the trial and deliberations.

(2) Materials. The court shall provide suitable materials for this purpose.

(3) Access to Notes. Jurors shall have access to their notes during recesses and deliberations.

(4) Destruction of Notes. After the jury has rendered a verdict, the notes shall be collected by court personnel who shall destroy them promptly.

(b) Notebooks.

(1) Allowed in Court’s Discretion. When the court deems it helpful in a particular case, jurors may be provided with notebooks to use in collecting and organizing appropriate materials, including items such as jury instructions, copies of written and other exhibits, and the juror's own notes.

(2) Participation by Counsel. Counsel should be apprised of this procedure and invited to prepare exhibits and other materials in a way that facilitates their inclusion in the jurors' notebooks.

(3) Disposition of Notebooks. At the end of the trial, the notebooks shall be collected by court personnel and their contents destroyed, unless the court instructs to the contrary.

(c) Juror Questions of Witnesses. In the court’s discretion, the court may permit a juror to ask a question of a witness. The following procedures apply:

(1) Written Submission of Questions. The juror shall put the question in writing and submit it to the judge through a court officer at the end of a witness' testimony. A juror’s question shall be anonymous and the juror's name shall not be included in the question.

(2) Procedure After Submission. The judge shall review all such questions and, outside the hearing of the jury, shall consult the parties about whether the question should be asked. The judge may ask the juror's question in whole or part and may change the wording of the question before asking it. The judge may permit counsel to ask the question in its original or amended form in whole or part.

(3) Jury Instructions. When juror questions are permitted, the court shall instruct jurors early in the trial about the mechanics of asking a question and to give no meaning to the fact that the judge chose not to ask a question or altered the wording of a question submitted by a juror.

(4) Retaining Questions for Record. All jurors' questions–whether approved or disapproved by the court–shall be retained for the record.

Advisory Commission Comment.

This rule permits three procedures designed to assist jurors in the effective performance of their important functions.

Rule 24.1(a) specifically states that jurors are allowed to take notes during the trial and to use those notes during deliberations. The court is to provide the necessary materials and to collect and destroy the notes at the end of the trial. The premise of this rule is that jurors, like judges and lawyers, may find it helpful to take notes during the trial in order to assist in remembering the evidence.

Rule 24.1(b) authorizes the court, in its discretion, to provide jurors with notebooks to use in collecting and organizing the various materials presented to the jury. The notebook might include such items as jury instructions, copies of exhibits (photographs, charts, etc.), basic definitions of words used in the trial, and any other appropriate materials.

The court is given the discretion whether to use notebooks. The court might want to ask counsel to assist in the preparation of the notebooks. The content and financial aspects of the notebooks might be discussed and resolved during pretrial conference. After the trial, the court may collect the notebooks and destroy any contents that will not be used again, although the actual disposition is left to the court’s discretion.

Rule 24.1(c) gives the court the discretion to allow jurors to ask questions of witnesses. This rule is designed to assist jurors in their understanding of evidence and to make them feel more involved in the trial process. The procedure in this rule should ensure that improper questions are not propounded to witnesses. After a witness has completed testimony, a juror desiring to ask a question must submit that question in writing to a court officer who will give it to the judge. The question is submitted to the judge without identifying the juror who asked it. The judge then screens the question. Counsel shall be invited to comment on the propriety of the question out of the hearing of the jury. The court is given the discretion to reject or ask the question in whole or in part, to rephrase it, and to have counsel ask the question of the witness. If necessary, the court may accompany the question or the rejection of the question with appropriate jury instructions. All questions are to be retained for the record.

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