Jury instructions explained
The Dispatch has a report explaining the intricacies and facts surrounding juror instructions.
Jury instructions in Sarah Kolb's murder trial couldn't have been any clearer, Rock Island County State's Attorney Jeff Terronez said Friday.It also provides clarification on the issue of whether someone dropped the ball in explaining the jury instructions, which resulted in the jury being unaware that they could find Kolb guilty on the charge of concealing a homicide while not reaching a verdict on the other charges.
"Every month, every week across the state a jury's given these instructions. To say the instructions are confusing would say every other jury has been duped," Mr. Terronez said Friday.
But, he said, the instructions could seem "intimidating and confusing" when dealing with such a heavy load as the emotionally charged death of Adrianne Reynolds.
"All in a span of 15 minutes, they are given all the instructions of the law and they are told to figure it out," he said. "I deal with the instructions on a regular basis, so they are clear to me."
The jury instructions came from the Illinois Pattern Instructions, or IPI, approved by the Illinois Supreme Court. Attorneys for both sides argue to the judge which ones should be given to the jury before it begins deliberations.
The jurors were given 30 instructions on the law regarding how testimony and evidence should be viewed, what the state had to prove on each charge and the definitions of each charge.
Jurors sent at least eight questions to the judge on wording used in the instructions, including definitions of the terms "presumption of innocence" and "intent"
A few jurors questioned said the panel unanimously agreed the state proved Ms. Kolb was guilty of the concealment charge. Their decision wasn't pursued and Mr. Terronez, nor the jurors interviewed, could explain why.Many commenters have seemed to seize on evidence they say proved Kolb had "intent" to murder Reynolds. They seemed to have the impression that jury foreman Hurty felt that intent was not proven, though I'm not sure where they're getting this idea. However, Kolb's attorney Dave Hoffman suggests that in order to find Kolb guilty, the prosecution needed to prove actual action taken, not merely intent.
The jury foreman — reportedly the lone holdout on the jury — said the jury instructions weren't clear they could file a guilty plea on the concealment charge and be hung on the others.
Mr. Terronez told jurors they could reach a verdict on one charge and not the others during his closing arguments. Judge Teros told jurors that before deliberations began, he said.
"They don't have to listen to me on this, I 'm just a lawyer arguing the case, but they have to listen to the judge," Mr. Terronez said.
While Mr. Terronez said the instructions were clear, assistant public defender Dave Hoffman, Ms. Kolb's attorney, said the instructions were ambiguous in favor of the prosecution.
After the mistrial was declared, Mr. Hoffman said the near-guilty murder verdicts stemmed from the jury's misconception of their instructions.Have at it.
"I think the jury didn't have a clear conception, which is probably my fault, as to what involves accountability. It takes action, not just sitting there and doing nothing," he said.