At the end of a criminal jury trial, the judge will give the jury certain instructions that they must follow when determing whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. Up until recently, the pattern jury instructions (the instructions that a judge will use unless the law is not correctly reflected in them), were not freely available on the Internet. As reported by Illinois Lawyer Now, they are now. Click here to access them.
When I begin a case (or need to think through the law applicable to a situation), I often head to the pattern jury instructions. After all, as Stephen Covey tells us, we need to begin with the end in mind. Since the jury will use these instructions at the end of the case — and the State must prove what is contained in the instructions — our focus as defense attorneys and defendants must be on them too. If we are not considering the end at the beginning, we are less likely to reach a two-word (not guilty) verdict.