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3.4 Readback or Playback

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3.4 Readback or Playback


            If during jury deliberations a request is made by the jury or by one or more jurors for a readback of a portion or all of a witness’s testimony, and the court in exercising its discretion determines after consultation with the lawyers that a readback should be allowed, the Committee recommends the following admonition be given in open court with both sides present:

           Because a request has been made for a [readback] [playback] of the testimony of [witness’s name] it is being provided to you, but you are cautioned that all [readbacks] [playbacks] run the risk of distorting the trial because of overemphasis of one portion of the testimony. [Therefore, you will be required to hear all the witness’s testimony on direct and cross-examination, to avoid the risk that you might miss a portion bearing on your judgment of what testimony to accept as credible.] [Because of the length of the testimony of this witness, excerpts will be [read] [played].] The [readback] [playback] could contain errors. The [readback] [playback] cannot reflect matters of demeanor [, tone of voice,] and other aspects of the live testimony. Your recollection and understanding of the testimony controls. Finally, in your exercise of judgment, the testimony [read] [played] cannot be considered in isolation, but must be considered in the context of all the evidence presented.

            Although a court has broad discretion to read back excerpts or the entire testimony of a witness when requested by a deliberating jury, precautionary steps should be taken. Absent the parties’ stipulation to a different procedure, the jury should be required to hear the readback in open court, with counsel for both sides present, and after giving the admonition set out above. See United States v. Newhoff, 627 F.3d 1163, 1167 (9th Cir.2010); see also JURY INSTRUCTIONS COMMITTEE OF THE NINTH CIRCUIT, A MANUAL ON JURY TRIAL PROCEDURES § 5.1.C (2013).