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Office of Attorney General Ashley Moody

SLIP OPINION



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AG number: 12020Style: Haynes v. State
Jurisdiction: 5th DCADate issued: December 8, 2006
Original file, if available:12020.pdf

AG HEADNOTE


Judge’s charge to jury read by law clerk
A trial judge is responsible for instructing a jury and should not pass that responsibility off to a clerk or a law student, but doing so will not invalidate a trial on its own, the 5th DCA said.
Jarvis Haynes claimed that he was deprived of his right to a fair trial when the judge presiding at his criminal trial allowed a law clerk to read the instructions to the jury. While the DCA agreed that this should not have been permitted, it found no evidence that allowing the procedure caused the kind of fundamental error claimed by Haynes. The DCA said the practice violated the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, but said it does not demand reversal.

“Not surprisingly, we have found no other cases in Florida or otherwise where a clerk has been allowed to instruct the jury, and we disapprove this practice. Trial judges in this district will not be fobbing off to a law clerk their important duty to instruct the jury, certainly not without some good reason and prior agreement of the parties. However, we do not see how it can rise to the level of fundamental error in this case,” the DCA said.



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