State v. Reyes

In State v. Reyes, 2005 UT 33, 116 P.3d 305, P.3d, the Court found that two facts justified the trial court's decision not to reread its preliminary instructions at the close of evidence. First, the Court noted that "less than twenty- four hours separated the trial court's reading of the preliminary instructions from the conclusion of the evidence." Reyes, 2005 UT 33 at P49. Second, the Court recognized that "the jury was provided with a written copy of every instruction." Id. Given those facts, the Court concluded that the trial court's decision "was well within the bounds of discretion afforded by rule 17 and rule 19 of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure." Id. The Court held that Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure 17 and 19 gave trial courts "discretion to determine the appropriate instructions to deliver to the jury at the close of evidence." Reyes, 2005 UT 33 at PP45, 49. The Court accordingly declined to require that trial courts reread preliminary instructions at the close of the evidence in every case, recognizing instead that a jury's understanding may be aided by allowing trial courts, in their discretion, to tailor the timing of particular jury instructions to the individual circumstances of a particular case. Id. Requiring a trial court to reread introductory instructions that have become irrelevant by the close of evidence (like those describing jurors' ability to take notes during trial), or even requiring a trial court to reread instructions pertaining to "vital rights," id., when those instructions have recently been given, may "dilute the jury's attention to critical substantive and procedural guidance present in other instructions," id. In short, repeating every instruction at the close of all of the evidence may not necessarily produce better-informed jurors, and our trial courts should have the discretion to decide when rereading instructions will yield diminishing returns.