For Immediate Release - March 21, 2013

Supreme Judicial Court Releases New Model Jury Instructions on Homicide

The Supreme Judicial Court today announced the release of new Model Jury Instructions on Homicide. The Justices first approved and recommended the use of Model Jury Instructions on Homicide in 1999. In 2010, the Justices created a new Committee on Model Jury Instructions on Homicide, chaired by SJC Justice Ralph Gants, and charged it with reviewing and updating the instructions.

The Supreme Judicial Court has issued a statement approving and recommending the use of these Model Jury Instructions. The Supreme Judicial Court additionally recommends that judges provide jurors with a "chalk" reflecting the requirements of proof for each homicide offense and lesser included offense as well as a recording of the judge's charge and a written copy of the charge where one is available. A chalk that summarizes the requirements of proof in cases of first degree murder, second degree murder, and manslaughter is included as an appendix to the Model Instructions.

As explained in an accompanying report prepared by the Committee on Model Jury Instructions on Homicide, this Committee worked to create a set of instructions that would accurately reflect the current state of the law, and flow in a logical order so that jurors would better understand the instructions. Detailed citations have been provided to support each instruction. These instructions use words consistent with their ordinary meaning where the legal definition of a term differs from the ordinary meaning. For example, the Committee no longer uses the term "malice" because its legal meaning differs from its lay meaning, and its legal meaning differed depending on the degree of murder charged.

The Model Jury Instructions on Homicide are not intended to be a comprehensive statement of the law, but rather to provide guidance on those instructions that are frequently given in trials of homicide cases, except vehicular homicide cases.

The Model Instructions pdf format of murder-instructions.pdf
, Chalk pdf format of chalk-requirements-of-proof.pdf
, Statement of the Justices pdf format of sjc-statement-model-jury-on-homicide.pdf
and Committee Report pdf format of report-model-jury-instructions-on-homicide.pdf
will be available on the court's website.

"I commend Justice Gants and the entire Committee on Model Jury Instructions on Homicide. The Committee spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy on this very important endeavor to update these instructions and improve their clarity,” said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland.

"The dedicated members of the Committee were greatly assisted by the many lawyers who submitted thoughtful comments on the draft version of these instructions that was published for public comment," said Justice Gants.

The members of the Committee will review and propose revisions to these instructions as the law develops or changes. Comments on these Model Instructions may be sent to modelhomicide@sjc.state.ma.us, and will be considered in future revisions of these instructions.

In addition to Justice Gants, the following judges served as members of the Committee:

Hon. Margot Botsford, Supreme Judicial Court
Hon. John Corbett, Juvenile Court
Hon. Kenneth Fishman, Superior Court
Hon. Frank Gaziano, Superior Court
Hon. Marianne Hinkle, District Court
Hon. Diane Kottmyer, Superior Court
Hon. David Poole, Boston Municipal Court