Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Structure of Jury Charges

R. v. Huard, 2013 ONCA 650:

[51]       In jury charges, substance controls. Form, not so much. No particular approach or standard formula is compulsory. Provided the charge fulfills its purpose and satisfies its requirements, the manner in which it does so is of no great moment: MacKinnon, at p. 386.  That said, an orderly or systematic approach to final instructions seems more likely to enhance a jury’s understanding of the precise nature of its task and how to discharge it by following a series of logical steps corresponding to the essential elements of the offence charged.

[52]       In the absence of a mandatory overall structure for a jury charge or for a compulsory internal template, the controlling question for an appellate court in every case of alleged inadequacy in final jury instructions is whether the instructions, considered as a whole, satisfy the requirements of the authorities.  The issue on appellate review is not whether another approach might have better equipped the jury to perform its task.  For that might be said in almost every case with the infinite wisdom of hindsight.  The standard is adequacy, not perfection.

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