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WPIC 4.01 Burden Of Proof—Presumption Of Innocence—Reasonable Doubt

11 WAPRAC WPIC 4.01Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Criminal

11 Wash. Prac., Pattern Jury Instr. Crim. WPIC 4.01 (5th Ed)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Criminal
December 2021 Update
Washington State Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions
Part I. General Instructions
WPIC CHAPTER 4. Burden Of Proof—Reasonable Doubt
WPIC 4.01 Burden Of Proof—Presumption Of Innocence—Reasonable Doubt
[The] [Each] defendant has entered a plea of not guilty. That plea puts in issue every element of [the] [each] crime charged. The [State] [City] [County] is the plaintiff and has the burden of proving each element of [the] [each] crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant has no burden of proving that a reasonable doubt exists [as to these elements].
A defendant is presumed innocent. This presumption continues throughout the entire trial unless during your deliberations you find it has been overcome by the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
A reasonable doubt is one for which a reason exists and may arise from the evidence or lack of evidence. It is such a doubt as would exist in the mind of a reasonable person after fully, fairly, and carefully considering all of the evidence or lack of evidence. [If, from such consideration, you have an abiding belief in the truth of the charge, you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt.]
NOTE ON USE
Use this instruction in every case. For a discussion of the bracketed sentence on abiding belief, see the Comment.
Use the bracketed phrase “as to these elements” only for cases involving affirmative defenses upon which the defendant has a burden of proof. In such cases, the elements of the defendant's burden as to the affirmative defense would then be included in a separate instruction.
WPIC 6.31 (Defendant's Failure to Testify) may be combined with this instruction. See the Note on Use for WPIC 6.31 (Defendant's Failure to Testify).
COMMENT
Jury must be instructed on presumption of innocence and meaning of reasonable doubt. Instructions on the presumption of innocence and on the meaning of reasonable doubt are required in every criminal case. Failing to instruct jurors on these issues is reversible error, even if the parties do not request the instruction and even if no objection is made to its omission. State v. McHenry, 88 Wn.2d 211, 558 P.2d 188 (1977) (holding that failing to define reasonable doubt and to instruct jurors that the prosecution must prove each element by this standard is a “grievous constitutional failure”). See also State v. Cox, 94 Wn.2d 170, 615 P.2d 465 (1980) (holding that in every case jurors must be instructed on these fundamental concepts).
Mandatory use of WPIC 4.01. In State v. Bennett, 161 Wn.2d 303, 306, 165 P.3d 1241 (2007), the Washington Supreme Court, in the exercise of its inherent supervisory powers, instructed the trial courts to use WPIC 4.01 in every case. In Bennett, the Supreme Court discussed the various definitions of the reasonable doubt standard in this and other jurisdictions. The Supreme Court found that the concept of reasonableness was so fundamental that it required Washington courts to adhere to a “clear, simple, accepted and uniform instruction.” State v. Bennett, 161 Wn.2d at 317–18. The mandatory nature of WPIC 4.01 was noted in the 2017 case of State v. Boyd, 1 Wn.App.2d 501, 521–22, 408 P.3d 362 (2017), review denied 190 Wn.2d 1008 (2018), cert. denied 139 S.Ct. 639 (2018).
Given the clarity and directness of the Supreme Court's opinion in Bennett, the Court of Appeals held that a failure to use WPIC 4.01 was not only error, but reversible error. See State v. Castillo, 150 Wn.App. 466, 208 P.3d 1201 (2009). The Court of Appeals left open the possibility that a non-standard instruction could still be approved if it improved on the traditional language of WPIC 4.01, see State v. Castillo, 150 Wn.App. at 472–75, but the risk of experimentation is now evident. The court has held that failure to use WPIC 4.01 is not structural error, but is analyzed pursuant to the general rule that erroneous jury instructions are subject to constitutional harmless error analysis. State v. Lundy, 162 Wn.App. 865, 872–73, 256 P.3d 466 (2011).
Abiding belief. Washington's traditional abiding-belief instruction (WPIC 4.01 in the second edition's main volume) has been upheld in several appellate cases. See State v. Pirtle, 127 Wn.2d 628, 904 P.2d 245 (1995); State v. Lane, 56 Wn.App. 286, 299–301, 786 P.2d 277 (1989) (rejecting the argument that WPIC 4.01 dilutes the State's burden of proof); State v. Mabry, 51 Wn.App. 24, 751 P.2d 882 (1988) (relied on by the state Supreme Court in Pirtle). In State v. Boyd, 1 Wn.App.2d 501, 408 P.3d 362 (2017), review denied 190 Wn.2d 1008 (2018), cert. denied 139 S.Ct. 639 (2018), the court recognized that use of the “abiding belief” language has been “consistently affirmed.” State v. Boyd, 1 Wn.App.2d at 522 (internal citations omitted).
The United States Supreme Court has also upheld the use of traditional abiding-belief instructions. See Victor v. Nebraska, 511 U.S. 1, 114 S.Ct. 1239, 127 L.Ed.2d 583 (1994).
Likewise, the definition from former WPIC 4.01A (referring generally to a reasonable person's doubt, without the additional abiding-belief language) has been approved by appellate opinion. See State v. Woods, 143 Wn.2d 561, 594–95, 23 P.3d 1046 (2001) (approving the trial court's instruction, which tracked the language from former WPIC 4.01A). See also State v. Cervantes, 87 Wn.App. 440, 447, 942 P.2d 382 (1997) (quoting with approval the operative sentence from former WPIC 4.01A, although the court focused primarily on the language directing the jurors to fully, fairly, and carefully consider all the evidence or lack of evidence in the case).
[Current as of September 2018.]
End of Document