Is the Judge’s Instruction to Disregard a Statement Counterproductive?
Prof. Bennett L. Gershman of Pace Law School continues to cover the Zimmerman trial. This time he focuses on the judge’s instruction to the jury to disregard a witness’ testimony that Zimmerman had testified truthfully. As often occurs during trials, statements that should have not been made are made, and the jury hears them. The judge then follows with a simple instruction that tells the jury to “disregard the statement.”
However, Prof. Gershman asks, “Are juries capable or willing to follow such instructions?” In fact, as he points out, it isn’t just that something improper was said but also that it was followed by the explicit instruction to disregard that something. This instruction makes it even more difficult for the jury to, as Prof. Gershman puts it, “un-ring the bell.”
What do you think? Will the jury in Zimmerman trial be able to disregard the witness’ statement about Mr. Zimmerman testifying truthfully? But more generally, does a judge’s instruction to disregard evidence make it harder for the jury to disregard it?