Sunday, January 25, 2009

Note Taking by Jurors

Rule 644. Note Taking by Jurors.

(A) When a jury trial is expected to last for more than two days, jurors shall be permitted to take notes during the trial for their use during deliberations. When the trial is expected to last two days or less, the judge may permit the jurors to take notes.

(1) The jurors shall not take notes during the judge’s charge at the conclusion of the trial.

(2) The court shall provide materials to the jurors that are suitable for note taking. These are the only materials that may be used by the jurors for note taking.

(3) The court, the attorney for the Commonwealth, and the defendant’s attorney, or the defendant if unrepresented, shall not request or suggest that jurors take notes, comment on the jurors’ note taking, or attempt to read any notes.

(4) The notes of the jurors shall remain in the custody of the court at all times.

(5) The jurors may have access to their notes and use their notes only during the trial and deliberations. The notes shall be collected or maintained by the court at each break and recess, and at the end of each day of the trial.

(6) The notes of the jurors shall be confidential and limited to use for the jurors’ deliberations.

(7) Before announcing the verdict, the jury shall return their notes to the court. The notes shall be destroyed by court personnel without inspection upon the discharge of the jury.

(8) The notes shall not be used as a basis for a request for a new trial, and the judge shall deny any request that the jurors’ notes be retained and sealed pending a request for a new trial.

(B) The judge shall instruct the jurors about taking notes during the trial. At a minimum, the judge shall instruct the jurors that:

(1) the jurors are not required to take notes, and those jurors who take notes are not required to take extensive notes;

(2) note taking should not divert jurors from paying full attention to the evidence and evaluating witness credibility;

(3) the notes merely are memory aids, not evidence or the official record;

(4) the jurors who take few or no notes should not permit their independent recollection of the evidence to be influenced by the fact that other jurors have taken notes;

(5) the jurors may not show their notes or disclose the contents of the notes to other jurors until deliberations begin, but may show the notes or disclose the contents during deliberations;

(6) the jurors may not take their notes out of the courtroom except to use their notes during deliberations; and

(7) the jurors’ notes are confidential, will not be reviewed by the court or anyone else, will be collected before the verdict is announced, and will be destroyed immediately upon discharge of the jury.