Supreme Court Issues New Rules For Juries In Michigan Criminal Cases

Earlier this week, the Michigan Supreme Court announced new Michigan jury rules that may affect the outcome of many civil and criminal cases across the state.

These rules will take effect in September and may impact the many types of trials, including assault and violent crimes, drug charges and theft and property crimes.

Chief Justice Robert Young notes the new rules are aimed at “giving jurors the tools they need for their very demanding job: seeking the truth.”

One of the new reforms will be to allow juries to talk about evidence in civil cases throughout the trial. Criminal juries already are allowed to do so. Advocates believe that by allowing jurors to discuss evidence as its being presented – rather than waiting until the end – will improve jury’s decision-making process.

Other reforms include:

• Allowing judges to schedule expert witnesses in a way that they believe makes sense to jurors;
• Allowing jurors to take notes during trial and use their notes during deliberation;
• Allowing jurors to visit or view where a material event – such as a crime – occurred;
• Giving jurors copies of the instructions that are likely to help with evaluation of the case at the beginning of the trial;
• Allow jurors to take into the jury room a reference document, as well as any exhibits and writings admitted into evidence;
• Allow jurors reasonable requests to review evidence or testimony as they deliberate;
• Giving judges the option of summarizing the evidence at the end of trial; and
• Allowing attorneys to make commentary during the trial.

Although the reforms have significant support, some oppose the rules as allowing judge’s too much discretion in allowing jurors to implement the procedures.

As a Michigan criminal defense attorney, I am hopeful these reforms lead to jurors being more informed throughout trials and have a better understanding of often-complex criminal defense evidence.

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