Before a jury can begin deliberations, the trial judge issues the charge - a specific set of guidelines to follow in reaching a verdict. Joe Knight, a partner in the Austin office whose practice includes both trial and appellate work, recently presented his paper, “Strategies for the Court’s Charge - How to get Instructions and Questions that Will Obtain Answers in Your Favor,” at the University of Houston seminar, “The Jury Trial.”
In this wide ranging article, he offers practical suggestions for drafting and advocating proposed questions, instructions and definitions that may result in a winning verdict without creating undue risk of reversal on appeal. Knight states that work on the charge should start early, long before the trial begins, when it may shape discovery strategy and development of evidence. He addresses the submission of a proposed charge to the court, including the opposing side’s issues and formatting, along with deciding what to request and advocating positions. The presentation also looks at strategies for complex cases, avenues for avoiding a retrial and ethical considerations.