Jury instructions are core to the assessment of a case – although they are boring and often difficult for the lay audience (or even many layers) to understand. Across the board, there has been inadequate work done to ensure comprehensibility.
This article approaches the problem from the starting point of average reading levels in the United States – an embarrassingly low 8th grade level. It then posits the following:
The discrepancy between juries’ reading levels and the reading level needed to comprehend pattern instructions results in jury miscomprehension…
This Comment is the first to propose that instead of using one-size-fits-all instructions, attorneys should write instructions that match the jury’s reading level. Specifically, this Comment calls for implementation of tailored instructions and grounds its analysis and assertions within scientifically valid measuring tools of text readability and audience reading comprehension.
Whether this is indeed the solution may be argued; but until a lawyer grasps the comprehension limitations that many (if not most) jurors face, there will be too little thought going into a critical part of the trial process and lost opportunities for persuasion. This COMMENT is an important starting point and resource.