Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Jury instructions

A typical jury instruction in Texas:
  • A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint.
I'm too busy to rewrite it now, and let's be honest: this would be hard to rewrite.

But we should make the effort. This instruction is used in criminal cases, and the accused's freedom may depend on the jury's understanding of recklessness. Shouldn't we explain it in language the jury can understand?

Not that the Flesch score and Flesch-Kincaid grade level are the ultimate indicators, but the Flesch score of this text is 29 (60 is plain) and the grade level is 19.

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