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Rhoades v. Alameida

September 18, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anthony W. Ishii Chief United States District Judge


In this action Plaintiff Gregory L. Rhoades contends that Defendant Atkison violated his First Amendment rights and the Due Process Clause when he destroyed Plaintiff's Religious Property. Trial in this action is set for September 29, 2009.

On September 11, 2009, the court held a telephonic conference. At the conference, the parties and the court discussed the jury instructions that the court should give at the close of the evidence. Pursuant to the agreement made during the conference, the following are the jury instructions the court intends to give.

Duty of Jury

Members of the Jury: Now that you have heard all of the evidence, it is my duty to instruct you as to the law of the case.

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

From: Ninth Circuit Model #1.1C

Claims and Defenses

To help you follow the evidence, I will give you a brief summary of the positions of the parties:

Plaintiff claims that Defendant violated his right under the United States Constitution to freely exercise his religion by disposing of Plaintiff's religious property and that Defendant violated his right under the United States Constitution to due process of law prior to disposing of the property. Plaintiff has the burden of proving these claims.

Defendant denies these claims.

This action is against Defendant Adkison only. This is not an action against the State of California, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, or any prison. Whether the State of California or any other entity would reimburse Defendant Adkison is irrelevant and should not be considered.

From: Ninth Circuit #1.2

Burden of Proof

When a party has the burden of proof on any claim by a preponderance of the evidence, it means you must be persuaded by the evidence that the claim is more probably true than not true.

You should base your decision on all of the evidence, regardless of which party presented it.

From: Ninth Circuit #1.4

All Persons Equal Before the Law

This case should be considered and decided by you as an action between persons of equal standing in the community, of equal worth, and holding the same or similar stations in life. All persons stand equal before the law, and are to be dealt with as equals in a court of justice.

From: Devitt, Blackmar, and Wolff, Federal Jury Practice and Instructions, § 71.03.

What is Evidence

The evidence you are to consider in deciding what the facts are consists of:

1. the sworn testimony of any witness;

2. the exhibits which are received into evidence; and

3. any facts to which the lawyers have agreed.

From: Ninth Circuit #1.6

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 have given 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.

From: Ninth Circuit #1.7

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.

By way of example, if you wake up in the morning and see that the sidewalk is wet, you may find from that fact that it rained during the night. However, other evidence, such as a turned on garden hose, may provide a different explanation for the presence of water on the sidewalk. Therefore, before you decide that a fact has been proved by circumstantial evidence, you must consider all the evidence in the light of reason, experience, and common sense.

From: Ninth Circuit #1.9

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 overrule the objection, the question may be answered or the exhibit received. If I sustain the objection, the question cannot be answered, and the exhibit cannot be received. Whenever I sustain an objection to a question, you must ignore the question and must not guess what the answer might have been.

Sometimes I may order 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 ...

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