MA Jurors Taking Notes
Note taking was not allowed in Massachusetts criminal jury trials until recently. There is no universal rule in terms of note taking in Massachusetts jury trials. Some Massachusetts judges will allow note taking during a criminal jury trial, while others will not. Each judge has the discretion to allow or prohibit note taking during the jury trial.
Some judges will allow note taking because some jurors may feel that the notes are helpful. Jurors may be more inclined to want to take notes where the facts of the case complicated. Other judges are concerned that the note taking will distract or interfere with the juror’s ability to hear the evidence.
When judges do allow note taking the judge usually tells the jurors to try to take brief notes. Some jurors may be inclined to take detailed notes and want to summarize all the testimony. Most judges will discourage this as thorough note taking will most likely interfere with the juror’s concentration. The jury has an important role to determine what witnesses to believe and how much to believe each witness’s testimony. As a result, it is important that each juror focus on the witnesses more than his or her notes.
Judges are also concerned that jurors may rely heavily on their notes when deliberating a case. In all criminal jury trials a juror’s notes is not an official transcript and judges are concerned with jurors trying to use their notes to persuade other jurors. Jurors should rely on their own memory of the case to make a determination. In trying to prevent jurors from relying on their notes too much, the judge will usually ask the jurors to keep their notes private. At the end of a trial, the notes are collected by the court officer and destroyed.
For questions contact Attorney Chan at 508-808-8902.