New Jury Rules Mean Big Changes for Michigan Trials

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Truth and justice: two things the Michigan Supreme Court hopes new jury rules will further.

"These rules are designed to reflect how adults learn and make decisions," said Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr.

The reforms, announced Wednesday, mean jurors in civil cases won't have to wait until a trial is over to discuss it.

"As the information is fresh in their mind, when they're all together, they can talk about it," he said. "The reality is we know jurors were doing this anyway."

And judges will have to give jurors certain instructions at the get-go.

"In a criminal case, it's not uncommon for a juror not to hear the elements, the parts of the crime, until the end of the trial, so they're listen the entire trial not knowing what they're listening for," said Judge Thomas Boyd of the 55th District Court.

The new rules come after 12 michigan judges, including Judge Boyd, tried them out during a two-year pilot project.

"It's still the judges responsibility to make sure the evidence presented to the jury is consistent with the rules, but it gives the jury a more proactive, interactive opportunity to understand the evidence," said Judge Boyd.

Jurors will be able to submit written questions to the judge. They could already do this in criminal cases but the new rules extends to civil cases too.

"And if the judge and the lawyers determine that's a legitimate question they can get an answer right away rather than getting to the end of the trial and realizing they dont understand a critical bit of information," said Justice Young.

Those opposed to the new rules argue they diminishe the lawyer's role.

"A lawyer might be inconvenienced for a juror to ask that insightful question they dont want to ask the witness," said Justice Young.

But the goal's not to hide the truth, it's to discover it.

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