• Jury Instructions: Key Topics in Federal White Collar Cases
  • February 19, 2013 | Author: Susan Brune
  • Law Firm: Brune & Richard LLP - New York Office
  • The right jury charge can make a difference between acquittal and conviction. The right charge can focus the jury and require it to confront directly whether the government has met its burden of proof on key defense issues. Proposing and advocating for clear and fair instructions in the trial court is thus critical, particularly in areas where courts are reluctant to reverse convictions on the basis of erroneous instructions. This article discusses six key issues where the court’s instructions to the jury can truly affect the outcome of the case and where there is much room for advocacy. The first three — reasonable doubt, willful blindness, and venue — are common to white collar cases and to criminal cases in general. As a result, courts often propose to give their standard instructions. But there is a strong basis to propose instructions that may be more advantageous to the defense and can help make the difference between conviction and acquittal. The last three concern instructions in substantive areas of white collar law — securities fraud, tax evasion, and antitrust. These areas highlight that where the law is still developing, model or pattern jury instructions may not reflect the latest precedent, and often there are significant open issues that can, in appropriate cases, be pursued to the defense’s advantage.