Missouri Supreme Court rule 70 outlines Missouri’s law on jury instructions. Jury instructions are all important as they provide the framework through which the jury will decide the case.
One aspect of Missouri law that I have come to appreciate is that Missouri has “Missouri Approved Insturctions” (MAI). These are jury instructions that have been approved by the Missouri Supreme Court. In Missouri there are approved instructions for both civil and criminal cases. The court does not publish the civil MAIs. Instead they are available from private sources such as Westlaw. Why do I like approved jury instructions? They ensure fairness across jurisdictions and time.
Failure to use an approved jury instruction when it is applicable is an error. According to Supreme Court Rule 70.02(c), the failure’s “prejudicial effect” is “to be judicially determined.” Missouri Appellate courts have little tolerance for failure to use MAI and this will often result in reversible error. Jury instructions have to be submitted and approved by the judge. These jury instructions are often referred to as “dirty jury instructions” because they include an annotation at the bottom of the page noting: 1) the MAI number, 2) the MAI Instruction Name, 3) the Party submitting the instruction. Here is a link to an example (Dirty Jury Instructions). Until the jury instructions are approved by the judge, the instructions numbers should remain blank.
Clean jury instructions are jury instructions that are prepared for the jury. The annotations at the bottom of the dirty jury instructions are removed. Here is an example (Clean Jury Instructions).
Finally, the defendant can submit converse jury instructions. There are two types of converse instructions. The first is the more traditional converse that highlights an element that the defense believes the plaintiff has failed to prove. In my example (Converse Jury Instruction), the defense wishes to call the jury’s attention to the fact that to be liable, there must be a connection between the defendant’s speeding and the injuries suffered by plaintiff. The other type of converse jury instruction focuses on an affirmative defense. Converse jury instructions are particularly effective for use in closing arguments.