Monday, July 16, 2007
William Mitchell School of Law CrimProf Ted Sampsell-Jones won a case before the Minnesota Supreme Court July 12 clarifying trial courts’ legal duty to instruct juries on each element of a charged crime even if not requested by counsel.
Sampsell-Jones represented an indigent defendant who had been convicted of third-degree assault. The trial judge in the case failed to instruct the jury on the statutory definition of assault. Neither the prosecution nor the defense had requested such an instruction.
Sampsell-Jones appealed, claiming that the statutory definition contained a necessary element of the offense. He argued that by failing to offer the instruction, the trial judge violated the defendant´s constitutional right to have every element submitted to a jury and proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed.
“The Court wrote a very careful and thoughtful opinion,” Sampsell-Jones said. “Sometimes small cases contain important legal issues, and I´m pleased that the Court took this case so seriously.”
The Court remanded the case back to the trial court.
Sampsell-Jones has been an appellate criminal defense and private practice attorney in Minneapolis and San Francisco, Calif., and received his J.D. from Yale Law School. He joins the William Mitchell faculty full time this fall and will teach classes in Civil Procedure and Evidence. [Mark Godsey]