News from the courts/agencies

Thursday, April 26, 2018
Supreme Judicial Court announces revised Model Jury Instructions on homicide

newsfromcourtsThe Supreme Judicial Court has released revised Model Jury Instructions on Homicide. The justices first approved and recommended the use of Model Jury Instructions on Homicide in 1999 and issued revised Model Jury Instructions in 2013. The 2018 revised Model Jury Instructions on Homicide reflect new developments in the law since 2013.

SJC Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants chaired the committee charged with updating the instructions. The SJC issued a statement approving and recommending the use of the revised Model Jury Instructions. The SJC has additionally issued a list summarizing the principal revisions reflected in the Model Jury Instructions.

The SJC’s statement recommends that judges provide jurors with a written copy of the judge's final instructions, if available, or with an audio recording, or both. A chalk entitled Requirements of Proof for Homicide is included as an appendix to the Model Jury Instructions. The Supreme Judicial Court states that the judge may wish to provide the chalk to jurors to use as an outline to the judge's final instructions.

The Model Jury Instructions, Chalk, Statement of the Justices, and List of Principal Revisions are available here.

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

The members of the committee will continue to review changes in the law, to monitor the efficacy of the Instructions in providing guidance to jurors, and to recommend further revisions as needed or warranted. SJC Justice Frank M. Gaziano will chair the committee going forward.   

Comments on these Model Jury Instructions may be sent to modelhomicide@sjc.state.ma.us, and will be considered in future revisions of these instructions.

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

  • Hon. Margot Botsford, Supreme Judicial Court (ret.)
  • Hon. Kenneth Fishman, Superior Court
  • Hon. Frank Gaziano, Supreme Judicial Court
  • Hon. Dana Gershengorn, Juvenile Court
  • Hon. Maureen Hogan, Superior Court 
  • Hon. David Poole, Boston Municipal Court
  • Hon. Sabita Singh, Appeals Court
  • Hon. Kathe Tuttman, Superior Court