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Justice System Reform

June 04, 1995

* Bill Boyarsky's May 5 column on Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti is the subject of continued comment in the legal community. I want to clarify one point, concerning guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As Boyarsky reported, Garcetti said that the reasonable doubt standard and jury instruction need to be looked at, in terms of whether they are consistent with people's desire to hold the guilty accountable. He also said that the reasonable-doubt jury instruction needs to be changed because it is unintelligible. He did not say that we should lower the level of proof needed for conviction.

Boyarsky was present in February, 1994, when Garcetti gave a speech suggesting that various aspects of the jury system were ready for a good, hard look. This of course was long before the murders of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown. In response to Garcetti's suggestion, a jury-reform task force was formed in Los Angeles composed of leaders in the legal community. An initial focus was to consider rewriting jury instructions in plain English and a grant application has been made to do just that.

It is the belief of some members of the task force that if there is greater citizen participation in the jury system and if jurors can comprehend the instructions that form the bases of their decisions, this may well solve many of the perceived problems with our criminal justice system and alleviate a need for major jury reform.

SUZANNE CHILDS

Director of Communications

L.A. County District Attorney's Office

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