UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
March 24, 2009
RONALD LEMAS, PLAINTIFF,
DONALD CECIL, DEFENDANT.
MEMBERS OF THE JURY: Now that you have heard all of the evidence, and you will hear arguments of the attorneys, it is my duty to instruct you as to the law of the case. A copy of these instructions will be sent with you to the jury room when you deliberate. You must not infer from these instructions or from anything I may say or do as indicating that I have an opinion regarding the evidence or what your verdict should be.
It is your duty to find the facts from all the evidence in the case. To those facts you will apply the law as I give it to you. You must follow the law as I give it to you whether you agree with it or not. And you must not be influenced by any personal likes or dislikes, opinions, prejudices, or sympathy. That means that you must decide the case solely on the evidence before you. You will recall that you took an oath to do so.
In following my instructions, you must follow all of them and not single out some and ignore others; they are all important
WHAT IS EVIDENCE
The evidence you are to consider in deciding what the facts consist of are:
(1) The sworn testimony of any witness;
(2) The exhibits that are received into evidence; and
(3) Any facts to which the lawyers have agreed.
WHAT IS NOT EVIDENCE
In reaching your verdict, you may consider only the testimony and exhibits received into evidence. Certain things are not evidence, and you may not consider them in deciding what the facts are. I will list them for you:
(1) Arguments and statements by lawyers are not evidence. The lawyers are not witnesses.
What they have said in their opening statements, will say in their closing arguments, and at other times is intended to help you interpret the evidence, but it is not evidence. If the facts as you remember them differ from the way the lawyers have stated them, your memory of them controls.
(2) Questions and objections by lawyers are not evidence. Attorneys have a duty to their clients to object when they believe a question is improper under the rules of evidence. You should not be influenced by the objection or by the court's ruling on it.
(3) Testimony that has been excluded or stricken, or that you have been instructed to disregard, is not evidence and must not be considered. In addition sometimes testimony and exhibits are received only for a limited purpose; when I give a limiting instruction, you must follow it.
(4) Anything you may have seen or heard when the court was not in session is not evidence. You are to decide the case solely on the evidence received at the trial.
EVIDENCE FOR LIMITED PURPOSE
Some evidence may be admitted for a limited purpose only. When I instruct you that an item of evidence has been admitted for a limited purpose, you must consider it only for that limited purpose and for no other.
DIRECT AND CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
Evidence may be direct or circumstantial. Direct evidence is direct proof of a fact, such as testimony by a witness about what that witness personally saw or heard or did. Circumstantial evidence is proof of one or more facts from which you could find another fact. You should consider both kinds of evidence. The law makes no distinction between the weight to be given to either direct or circumstantial evidence. It is for you to decide how much weight to give to any evidence.
RULING ON OBJECTIONS
There are rules of evidence that control what can be received into evidence. When a lawyer asks a question or offers an exhibit into evidence and a lawyer on the other side thinks that it is not permitted by the rules of evidence, that lawyer may object. If I overruled the objection, the question could be answered or the exhibit received. If I sustained the objection, the question could not be answered, and the exhibit was not be received. Whenever I sustained an objection to a question, you must ignore the question and must not guess what the answer might have been.
Sometimes I may have ordered that evidence be stricken from the record and that you disregard or ignore the evidence. That means that when you are deciding the case, you must not consider the evidence that I told you to disregard.
CREDIBILITY OF WITNESSES
In deciding the facts in this case, you may have to decide which testimony to believe and which testimony not to believe. You may believe everything a witness says, or part of it, or none of it. Proof of a fact does not necessarily depend on the number of witnesses who testify about it.
In considering the testimony of any witness, you may take into account:
(1) the opportunity and ability of the witness to see or hear or know the things testified
(2) the witness's memory;
(3) the witness's manner while testifying;
(4) the witness's interest in the outcome of the case and any bias or prejudice;
(5) whether other evidence contradicted the witness's testimony;
(6) the reasonableness of the witness's testimony in light of all the evidence; and
(7) any other factors that bear on believability.
In addition, you have heard evidence that some of the witnesses have been convicted of a felony. You may consider this evidence, along with other pertinent evidence, in deciding whether or not to believe such witnesses and how much weight to give to the testimony of such witnesses.
The weight of the evidence as to a fact does not necessarily depend on the number of witnesses who testify about it.
TYPES OF EVIDENCE: EXPERT OPINION
Some witnesses, because of education or experience, are permitted to state opinions and the reasons for those opinions.
Opinion testimony should be judged just like any other testimony. You may accept it or reject it, and give it as much weight as you think it deserves, considering the witness's education and experience, the reasons given for the opinion, and all the other evidence in the case.
BURDEN OF PROOF -- PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE
When a party has the burden of proof on any claim or affirmative defense by a preponderance of the evidence, it means you must be persuaded by the evidence that the claim or affirmative defense is more probably true than not true.
You should base your decision on all of the evidence, regardless of which party presented it.
ELEMENTS: PHASE 1
In this lawsuit, plaintiff Ronald Lemas claims that he was harmed by the negligence of defendant Donald Cecil. The trial has been divided into two phases, and the first phase has just been completed.
During the first phase, you will consider whether defendant Cecil was negligent and, if so, whether his negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to plaintiff Lemas. You will also consider whether plaintiff Lemas was himself also negligent and, if so, whether his own negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to himself.
"Negligence" is the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others.
A person can be negligent by acting or by failing to act. A person is negligent if he or she does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation. You must decide how a reasonably careful person would have acted in the same situation.
During phase one of the trial, plaintiff Lemas must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that defendant Cecil was negligent when escorting plaintiff Lemas down the stairs on April 18, 2005, and, if so, that defendant Cecil's negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to plaintiff Lemas.
If you find that plaintiff Lemas did prove these two things, then it is the burden of defendant Cecil to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that plaintiff Lemas was also negligent and that his own negligence was also a substantial factor in causing harm to plaintiff Lemas.
RELIANCE ON GOOD CONDUCT OF OTHERS
Every person has a right to expect that every other person will use reasonable care, unless he or she knows, or should know, that the other person will not use reasonable care.
CUSTOM OR PRACTICE
You may consider customs or practices in the community in deciding whether plaintiff and defendant acted reasonably. Customs and practices do not necessarily determine what a reasonable person would have done in plaintiff's or defendant's situation. They are only factors for you to consider.
Following a custom or practice does not excuse conduct that is unreasonable. You should consider whether the custom or practice itself is reasonable.
JURY DELIBERATIONS -- DUTY TO DELIBERATE
When you begin your deliberations, you should elect one member of the jury as your presiding juror. That person will preside over the deliberations and speak for you here in court.
You will then discuss the case with your fellow jurors to reach agreement if you can do so. Your verdict must be unanimous.
Each of you must decide the case for yourself, but you should do so only after you have considered all of the evidence, discussed it fully with the other jurors, and listened to the views of your fellow jurors.
Do not hesitate to change your opinion if the discussion persuades you that you should. Do not come to a decision simply because other jurors think it is right.
It is important that you attempt to reach a unanimous verdict but, of course, only if each of you can do so after having made your own conscientious decision. Do not change an honest belief about the weight and effect of the evidence simply to reach a verdict.
USE OF NOTES
Some of you have taken notes during the trial. Whether or not you took notes, you should rely on your own memory of what was said. Notes are only to assist your memory. You should not be overly influenced by the notes.
COMMUNICATION WITH COURT
If it becomes necessary during your deliberations to communicate with me, you may send a note through the marshal, signed by your presiding juror or by one or more members of the jury. No member of the jury should ever attempt to communicate with me except by a signed writing; I will communicate with any member of the jury on anything concerning the case only in writing, or here in open court. If you send out a question, I will consult with the parties before answering it, which may take some time. You may continue your deliberations while waiting for the answer to any question. Remember that you are not to tell anyone--including me--how the jury stands, numerically or otherwise, until after you have reached a unanimous verdict or have been discharged. Do not disclose any vote count in any note to the court.
RETURN OF VERDICT
A verdict form has been prepared for you. After you have reached unanimous agreement on a verdict, your presiding juror will fill in the form that has been given to you, sign and date it, and advise the court that you are ready to return to the courtroom.
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