Jury Instruction Accuracy
The definition of the obligation of a district court with respect to jury instructions in a criminal case in this way:
The duty of the trial court is to present in the instructions to the jury the law applicable to the issues actually raised by the evidence. Hatheway v. State, 623 P.2d 741, 743 (Wyo.1981).
It is well settled that a trial court is given wide latitude in instructing the jury; and as long as the instructions correctly state the law and the entire charge to the jury adequately covers the issues, reversible error will not be found. Scadden v. State, 732 P.2d 1036, 1053 (Wyo.1987).
The instructions are to be viewed in their entirety and read together to determine if this obligation is met. Ostrowski v. State, 665 P.2d 471, 487 (Wyo.1983). Baier v. State, 891 P.2d 754, 756 (Wyo. 1995).
The standard that requires a jury instruction to be a correct statement of the law had endured for almost seventy-five years. Richey v. State, 28 Wyo. 117, 205 P. 304, 309 (1922).
The accuracy of an instruction to the jury is purely a question of law which we review de novo. If the instruction fails to correctly state the law, reversible error exists. Baier, 891 P.2d at 756.
To determine whether the jury was properly instructed, it is necessary to interpret the meaning of the phrases in the statute.
This is a question of law, and we review it de novo. Ryan v. State, 988 P.2d 46, 63 (Wyo. 1999); French v. Amax Coal West, 960 P.2d 1023, 1027 (Wyo. 1998).