Video: The fight over jury instructions

msnbc.com
updated 5/31/2005 11:48:48 AM ET 2005-05-31T15:48:48

After weeks of testimony in the Michael Jackson Case, the singer's fate rests in the hands of the jury.  On Tuesday, the jury will receive instructions on how to apply the  law to the charges levied against Jackson.  Before the days events began, MSNBC's Randy Meier asked fellow MSNBC analyst and attorney Lisa Daniels to explain what will go on during the jury instructions and how soon the closing arguments in the case may begin.

To watch the full interview click on the video box above.  An excerpt of the interview follows:

Randy Meier:  What types of things do you expect the lawyers and judge to discuss today during this discussion they'll have on juror instruction?

Lisa Daniels:  The jury instructions are actually crucial.  It doesn't have the glitz and glam as seeing these celebrity witnesses go through these fences and take the stand.  But it is crucial in its own right.  It basically tells the jurors what laws to apply.

They way to think of this, Randy, is that the evidence phase is over.  There are no more witnesses.  There is no more cross, no direct, no testimony; we're moving into the law phase and so there is going to be a battle inside the court room as to what changes the jury will get to hear.

What does child molestation actually mean?  What does reasonable doubt mean?  What factors will the jury get to consider in assessing the credibility of the witnesses and so far every word Tom Sneddon is going to make as easy as possible.  He's going to say 'Judge Melville, make this simple, allow the jurors to understand the changes.'

Tom Mesereau, on the other hand, is going to try to make it tough.  He wants it tough for the jury to find Jackson guilty.  Now this may seem strange to an outsider because I would suppose someone would say 'OK, open a law book and see what the law is.'

Ok, here's an example: For Jackson to be found guilty of child molestation a jury would have to find, this is one possible definition, that Jackson touched his accuser to satisfy his own sexual desires.  That's straight out of a law book.

Now what Tom Sneddon is going to say 'What does the word touch mean?  Make this simple Judge Melville.'

Meanwhile, Tom Mesereau is going to say 'Sexual desires, that's not clear.  You have to make it tougher.  Sexual desire could mean anything.'  And so inside the courtroom Randy, it's going to be a very tough battle, a battle really with words.

Meier:  So clearly, that answers the question why it would take so long with all these interpretations they are going to have to go through today.  You would think some people would wonder why they would set a day aside but also on the top of that, when do you expecting closing arguments to being in a case like this Lisa?

Daniels:  Well, believe it or not, the jury instructions as you just pointed out could take all day just to fight over what they're going to be. Then the jury is going to have to be charged and all those instructions could take well over an hour. 

So closing arguments could begin tomorrow or perhaps they'll begin the next day on Wednesday.  And one more point that the closing argument makes -- Most attorneys incorporate the jury instructions into the closing arguments.  They're going to use the same language that Judge Melville tells the jurors inside their closing arguments so that the jury understands what they are trying to say. 

Before starting her broadcasting career, NBC's Lisa Daniels was an associate with the New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell. She graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School.

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