Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Model Jury Instructions Commission to meet March 26

March 25, 2009

The Mississippi Model Jury Instructions Commission will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 26, in the fourth floor conference room at the Gartin Justice Building in Jackson.

It will be the group’s first meeting.

The Supreme Court created the Mississippi Model Jury Instructions Commission in an order entered on Dec. 30, 2008. The commission’s purpose is to examine jury instructions used in state courts and recommend plain language instructions which would offer clearer guidance regarding application of the law for the lay persons who serve on juries.

Presiding Justice George C. Carlson Jr. of Batesville is chair of the 22-member commission. Its members include trial judges, appellate judges, lawyers, law professors and lay persons.

The court order creating the commission says, “Recognizing that clear and understandable jury instructions are essential to the fair and efficient administration of justice and that a thorough review of the instructions used in our courts is needed, the Supreme Court of Mississippi does hereby establish the Mississippi Model Jury Instructions Commission. The Commission is charged to conduct a comprehensive examination of jury instructions now in use and to recommend to the Supreme Court revised, modified and simplified instructions as needed. Emphasis is to be on instructions which give jurors guidance as to the law applicable to the cases before them in clear and concise language understandable to the jurors without legal training. It is expected that as a result of the work of the Commission there will be created a set of improved instructions for use in both civil and criminal litigation in our courts.”

The order creating the commission did not set a time frame for the completion of the study and recommendations.

Other members of the Commission include: Court of Appeals Judge David M. Ishee, Gulfport; Circuit Judge James T. Kitchens Jr., Columbus; Circuit Judge Clarence E. Morgan III, Kosciusko; Circuit Judge Betty W. Sanders, Greenwood; County Court Judge Michael W. McPhail, Hattiesburg; attorney Ramel L. Cotton, Jackson, representing the Magnolia Bar Association; attorney C. Joy Harkness, Meridian, representing the Mississippi Bar; attorney Lance L. Stevens, Jackson, representing the Mississippi Association for Justice; attorney James R. Moore Jr., Ridgeland, representing the Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association; attorney James E. Lappan of the Mississippi Office of Capital Defense Counsel, Jackson, representing the Mississippi Public Defenders Association; Assistant Attorney General Charles W. Maris Jr., representing the Attorney General; Assistant District Attorney Archibald W. Bullard, Corinth, representing the Mississippi Prosecutors Association; Mississippi Judicial College Executive Director Cynthia D. Davis, Oxford; Mississippi Judicial College Staff Attorney Carole E. Murphey, Batesville; professor emeritus Guthrie T. Abbott, Oxford, representing the University of Mississippi School of Law; attorney Forrest W. Stringfellow, Jackson, representing the Mississippi College School of Law; Libby Riley, Meridian, representing the Governor; attorney R. Keith Foreman, Ridgeland, representing the Lieutenant Governor; businessman Jimmy Murphy, Booneville, representing the Speaker of the House; and at-large members attorney Merrida P. Coxwell Jr., Jackson; and attorney Philip W. Gaines, Jackson.