Rule 30. Instructions

Rule 30. Instructions

(a) Special Requests.

(1) Filing Request. At the close of the evidence or at such earlier time during the trial as the court reasonably directs, any party may file written requests that the court instruct the jury on the law as set forth in the requests. The court may also entertain requests for instructions at any time before the jury retires to consider its verdict.

(2) Copy to Adversary Counsel. Counsel requesting a jury instruction shall furnish a copy to adversary counsel at the same time the request is filed with the court.

(3) Decision on Request. Prior to counsels’ closing jury arguments, the court shall inform counsel of its proposed action on:

(A) the requests for jury instructions; and

(B) any other portion of the instructions concerning which inquiries are made.

(b) Objections to Instructions. After the court instructs the jury, the parties shall be given an opportunity to object–out of hearing of the jury–to the content of an instruction that was given or to the failure to give a requested instruction. Counsel’s failure to object does not prejudice the right of a party to assign the basis of the objection as error in a motion for a new trial.

(c) Form, Use, and Disposition of Instructions. In the trial of all felonies–except where pleas of guilty have been entered–every word of the judge’s instructions shall be reduced to writing before being given to the jury. The written charge shall be read to the jury and taken to the jury room by the jury when it retires to deliberate. The jury shall have possession of the written charge during its deliberations. After the jury’s deliberations have concluded, the written charge shall be returned to the judge and filed with the record, but it need not be copied in the minutes.

(d) Timing of Jury Instructions.

(1) At beginning of trial. Immediately after the jury is sworn, the court shall instruct the jury concerning its duties, its conduct, the order of proceedings, the general nature of the case, and the elementary legal principles that will govern the proceeding.

(2) Before and After Closing Argument. The court may instruct the jury on the applicable law before or after closing argument. After closing argument the court may repeat all or part of the instructions that were given before closing argument. The court may also give additional instructions concerning organizational and related matters after closing argument.

Advisory Commission Comment.

This rule generally assures that counsel will know what the charge will contain before making the summation argument to the jury.

The requirement that a written charge be used in felony cases, which must be taken by the jury to the jury room, returned to the judge, and filed with the other papers, reiterates present law.

Rule 30(d) deals with the timing of jury instructions.

Rule 30(d)(1) requires the court to give basic instructions on procedures and law at the beginning of the trial. This requirement should better enable jurors to understand the evidence and apply the proof to the applicable law. With this background, jurors will be able to put the proof in the context of the legal rules involved in the dispute.

Rule 30(d)(2) provides the court the option of giving the bulk of the final jury instructions before closing argument. This procedure may improve the utility of counsel’s closing argument by enabling the lawyers to make specific reference to the law at issue in the case. This option should greatly assist jurors in their efforts to apply the facts to the law. If such instructions are given before closing argument, the court should provide additional housekeeping instructions after that argument. The court may also repeat some of the substantive instructions already given before the closing argument.


Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure - 2023-2024 Copyright © by Edited by John A. Day. All Rights Reserved.