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Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021

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SJC approves use of Model Jury Instructions on Implicit Bias

The justices of the Supreme Judicial Court have approved the use of Model Jury Instructions on Implicit Bias.

The instructions should be given at all criminal and civil trials, during the preliminary charge following empanelment and during the final charge prior to deliberations.

It is recommended that trial judges use the language of the instructions unless the judge determines that different language would more accurately or clearly provide comparable guidance to the jury or better promote the fairness of the trial. However, a judge should give careful consideration before making any omission or alteration that affects the substantive guidance of the instructions because, in most cases, the instructions will provide appropriate guidance.

The instructions are not intended to be a comprehensive statement on implicit bias. The justices also recognize that the instructions are unlikely to be the final word and may need to evolve based on the experience of judges giving the instructions and new developments arising from research regarding implicit bias.

The Standing Committee on Eyewitness Identification, which researched and proposed the instructions, will continue to review the applicable research and recommend revisions as needed or warranted.

Click here to view the preliminary charge and final charge instructions.