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Charles Singletary v. District of Columbia

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


July 17, 2012

CHARLES SINGLETARY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.

JURY INSTRUCTIONS

The function of the judge is to conduct the trial of the case in an orderly, fair, and efficient manner. The judge also must rule upon questions of law arising during the trial, and must tell you the law that applies to this case. It is your duty to accept the law as I state it to you without questioning the wisdom of these instructions. In other words, even if you disagree or do not understand the reasons for any of the instructions, you are bound to follow them.

Your function as jurors is to decide the facts. You are the exclusive judges of the facts. You alone determine the weight, the effect and the value of the evidence, and the believability of the witnesses.

You should decide the facts only from a fair evaluation of all of the evidence, without prejudice, sympathy, fear or favor.

During the course of the trial, you have heard references to the terms plaintiff and defendant. To put it as simply as possible, the plaintiff is the person who starts a lawsuit and the defendant is the person who is sued by the plaintiff.

During your deliberations, however, you must not attach any significance in weighing the evidence to the terms plaintiff and defendant. In other words, the fact that the plaintiff has filed a lawsuit against the defendant does not mean that the plaintiff is entitled to damages in any particular amount, or that his evidence is entitled to greater weight than the defendants' evidence. A plaintiff must prove every element of his damages by a preponderance of the evidence.

It is your duty as jurors to consult with one another and to deliberate expecting to reach an agreement. You must decide the case for yourself but you should do so only after thoroughly discussing it with your fellow jurors. You should not hesitate to change an opinion when convinced that it is wrong. You should not be influenced to vote in any way on any question just because another juror favors a particular decision or holds an opinion different from your own. You should reach an agreement only if you can do so in good conscience. In other words, you should not surrender your honest beliefs about the effect or weight of evidence merely to return a verdict or solely because of other jurors' opinions.

Remember that you are not advocates in this matter. You are neutral judges of the facts. The final test of the quality of your service will lie in the verdict that you return to this courtroom. You will make an important contribution to the cause of justice if you arrive at a just and proper verdict in this case. Therefore, during your deliberations in the jury room, your purpose should not be to support your own opinion but to determine the facts.

You must treat and consider all of these instructions as a whole. You must not single out any particular instruction or sentence while ignoring others. You must give each instruction equal importance and consider each one equally with all other instructions.

The law permits me to comment to you about the evidence in this case. My comments are only my opinions about the facts, and you are not bound by my opinions. If, during the course of this trial, or the giving of these instructions, I have made or make any comment on any evidence, you are free to disregard the comment. Remember, you are the sole and exclusive judges of all questions of fact in this case.

During the course of the trial, I may have asked questions of a witness, to obtain information or to bring out facts. You should not take my questions to witnesses as any indication of my opinion about how you should determine the facts.

If I have said or done anything at any time during this case, including giving these instructions, which seemed to indicate my opinion on any of these matters, then I instruct you to disregard that indication. Nothing I have said or done should influence or suggest to you that I favor any party in this case.

I have not meant to express, or to suggest, any opinion about which witnesses should be believed, or which facts are established.

There may have been times during the trial when a lawyer made an objection to a question asked by another lawyer or to an answer given by a witness. It is the duty of a lawyer to make objections if the lawyer believes something improper is being done. When I sustained an objection to a question, the witness was not allowed to answer it. Do not attempt to guess what the answer might have been had I allowed the question to be answered. Similarly, when I told you to disregard a particular answer -- when I ordered it stricken -- you should have put that statement out of your mind, and you may not refer to that stricken answer during your deliberations.

While it may have been natural for you to become impatient with the delay caused by objections or other portions of the proceedings, you must not let your feelings in any way affect your deliberations. Those interruptions concerned legal matters, while your job is to decide the facts. You should not be influenced by the any lawyer's objections, no matter how I ruled upon them.

Our system of justice requires that you decide the facts of this case in an impartial manner. You must not be influenced by bias, sympathy, prejudice or public opinion. It is a violation of your sworn duty to base your verdict upon anything other than the evidence in the case.

In reaching a just verdict, you must consider and decide this case as an action between persons of equal standing in the community and of equal worth. A city or municipality, whether large or small, has the same right to a fair trial as a private individual. All persons, including municipalities, stand equal before the law and are to be treated as equals in this court. In other words, the fact that a party is a municipality must not affect your decision.

Our system of justice requires that you decide the facts of this case in an impartial manner. You must not be influenced by bias, sympathy, prejudice or public opinion. It is a violation of your sworn duty to base your verdict upon anything other than the evidence in the case.

In reaching a just verdict, you must consider and decide this case as an action between persons of equal standing in the community and of equal worth. All persons stand equal before the law and must be treated as equals in this court.

You may consider only the evidence properly admitted in the case. Evidence includes the sworn testimony of witnesses, exhibits admitted into evidence, and facts stipulated and agreed to by counsel. You may consider any facts to which all counsel have agreed or stipulated to be undisputed evidence.

Another type of evidence includes facts of which I take judicial notice. I may take judicial notice of public acts, places, facts and events which I regard as matters of common knowledge. When I take judicial notice of a particular fact, you shall accept that fact as included in the evidence and proven.

In this case, I have taken judicial notice of the following facts:

1. In January 1984, plaintiff Charles Singletary was convicted of kidnapping while armed and assault with a dangerous weapon in the District of Columbia, and he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 9-27 years.

2. In 1990, Mr. Singletary was released from prison on parole. 3. In 1995, Mr. Singletary was arrested and charged with murder, but the charges were dropped at the preliminary hearing. He was never indicted or prosecuted.

4. In July 1996, the D.C. Parole Board held a hearing to decide whether to revoke Mr. Singletary's parole based on the alleged crime for which he had been arrested in 1995.

5. On August 1, 1996, Mr. Singletary's parole was revoked by the District of Columbia Board of Parole.

6. Upon the revocation of his parole, Mr. Singletary was sent back to prison. 7. While he was in prison, Mr. Singletary challenged the revocation of his parole, by seeking a writ of habeas corpus.

8. Eventually, in 2006, Mr. Singletary's petition for habeas corpus was granted. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the evidence that had been presented at the hearing before the parole board was not reliable, and that therefore, the hearing did not satisfy Mr. Singletary's constitutional right to due process. The Court decided that he was entitled to a new parole-revocation hearing.

9. A new parole-revocation hearing was held and it was determined that the evidence did not support a finding that Mr. Singletary had violated his parole.

10. On November 17, 2006, Mr. Singletary was restored to parole.

11. Shortly after the restoration of his parole, Mr. Singletary was released from prison.

12. In addition to the ten years that Mr. Singletary was incarcerated from 1996 to 2006, which is the subject of this trial, he also was incarcerated during the following time periods:

- 4/21/1982 -- 4/26/1982

- 1983 -- 1990

- 5/6/1993 -- 5/7/1993

- 6/10/1993 -- 8/26/1993

- 8/9/1994 -- 3/7/1995

- 8/16/1995 -- 10/31/1995

In arriving at your verdict, you are to consider only the evidence in the case. When you are considering the evidence, however, you are not limited solely to the statements of the witnesses. You are permitted to draw from the evidence any inferences or conclusions that reason and common sense lead you to make. You should not engage in speculation or make a decision based upon conjecture, however.

It is the duty of the lawyers to object when the other side offers testimony or other materials that a lawyer believes are not properly admissible in evidence.

If, during the course of the trial, I sustained an objection by one lawyer to a question asked by the other lawyer, you are to disregard the question and you must not guess about what the answer would have been. If a question was asked and the witness answered it, and I ruled that you should not consider the answer, then you must disregard both the question and the answer in your deliberations just as if the question and answer had never been spoken.

[Likewise, if I sustained an objection to any exhibits or ordered them stricken, then those stricken exhibits are not evidence and you must not consider them.]

Statements and arguments of the lawyers, such as their opening statements and closing arguments, are not evidence. They are intended only to help you understand and interpret the evidence from each party's perspective.

The questions that the lawyers ask are not evidence. A lawyer's question that contains an assertion of a fact does not provide evidence of that fact.

During this case, I or the lawyers may have called your attention to certain evidence. If you remember that evidence differently from the way I or the lawyers stated it, then you should disregard our characterization of the evidence and rely upon your own memory.

The party who makes a claim for damages has the burden of proving it. This burden of proof means that the plaintiff must prove every element of his damages by a preponderance of the evidence. To establish a fact by a preponderance of the evidence is to prove that it is more likely so than not so. In other words, a preponderance of the evidence means that the evidence produces in your mind the belief that the thing in question is more likely true than not true.

If, after considering all of the evidence, the evidence favoring the plaintiff's side of an issue is more convincing to you, and causes you to believe that the probability of truth favors the plaintiff on that issue, then the plaintiff will have succeeded in carrying the burden of proof on that issue.

The term "preponderance of the evidence" does not mean that the proof must produce absolute or mathematical certainty. For example, it does not mean proof beyond a reasonable doubt as is required in criminal cases.

Whether there is a preponderance of the evidence depends on the quality, and not the quantity, of evidence. In other words, merely having a greater number of witnesses or documents bearing on a certain version of the facts does not necessarily constitute a preponderance of the evidence.

If you believe that the evidence is evenly balanced, on an issue the plaintiff had to prove, then the plaintiff has not carried the burden of proof.

In determining whether any fact has been proved by a preponderance of the evidence, you should consider all the evidence bearing upon that fact, regardless of who produced it. A party is entitled to benefit from all evidence that favors him or it whether he or it produced it or his adversary produced it.

There are two types of evidence: direct and circumstantial. Direct evidence is the direct proof of a fact, such as the testimony of an eyewitness. Circumstantial evidence is indirect evidence of a fact which is established or logically inferred from a chain of other facts or circumstances. For example, direct evidence of whether an animal was running in the snow might be the testimony of a person who actually saw the animal in the snow. Circumstantial evidence might be the testimony of a person who saw the tracks of the animal in the snow, rather than the animal itself.

You may consider both types of evidence equally. The law makes no distinction between the weight to be given to either direct or circumstantial evidence. The law does not require a greater degree of certainty for circumstantial evidence than of direct evidence. You should weigh all the evidence in the case, both direct and circumstantial, and find the facts in accordance with that evidence.

In evaluating the evidence and deciding what the facts are, you must consider and weigh the testimony of all the witnesses who have appeared before you. You are the sole judges of the credibility of the witnesses. In other words, you alone are to determine whether to believe any witness and to what extent any witness should be believed. If there is any conflict in the testimony between a witness's testimony and other evidence, it is your function to resolve the conflict and to determine where the truth lies.

In deciding the credibility of any witness, you may consider any matter that may have a bearing on the subject. You may consider the appearance and the behavior of the witness on the witness stand; whether the witness impresses you as a truthful individual; whether the witness impresses you as having an accurate memory and recollection; whether the witness has any motive for not telling the truth; whether the witness had full opportunity to observe the matters about which he or she has testified; whether the witness has any interest in the outcome of this case; or whether the witness has any friendship or animosity toward other persons concerned in this case.

You may consider the reasonableness or unreasonableness, and the probability or improbability, of the testimony of a witness in determining whether to accept it as true and accurate. You may consider whether the witness has been contradicted or corroborated by other credible evidence.

If you believe that any witness has shown himself to be biased or prejudiced, either for or against either side in this trial, you may consider and decide whether that bias or prejudice has colored the testimony of the witness so as to affect the witness's desire and capability to tell the truth.

You should give the testimony of each witness as much weight as in your judgment it is fairly entitled to receive.

The relative weight of the evidence on a particular issue is not determined by the number of witnesses testifying for either side. You should consider all the facts and circumstances in evidence to determine which of the witnesses are worthy of greater belief. You may find that the testimony of a smaller number of witnesses on one side is more believable than the testimony of a greater number of witnesses on the other side. Indeed, the testimony of a single witness, which you believe to be the truth, is enough to prove any fact.

If, after considering all the evidence in the case, you hold a greater belief in the accuracy and reliability of one or a few witnesses' testimony, then you may base your verdict on that testimony, even though a larger number of witnesses may have testified to the contrary.

The testimony of a witness may be discredited or impeached by showing that he or she has previously made statements which are inconsistent with his or her present courtroom testimony. It is for you to decide whether a witness made a statement on an earlier occasion and whether it was in fact inconsistent with the witness' testimony in court here.

If a witness at trial has been confronted with a prior statement which that witness made, and that prior statement is inconsistent with his testimony here in court, then you may consider the prior statement when you assess the truthfulness of the testimony he gave in court.

If the witness made the prior inconsistent statement at a deposition, then you may also treat that prior statement as evidence in this case -- that is, you may treat what the witness said in that prior statement as evidence like any other evidence in this case.

If you believe that any witness has been discredited or impeached, then you should give his or her testimony the weight, if any, that you judge it is fairly entitled to receive.

If a witness testifies that a prior inconsistent statement is the truth, then you may consider the prior statement both to evaluate the witness's credibility and as evidence of the truth of any fact contained in that statement.

Ordinarily, what jurors have to do is to determine first whether a plaintiff has established that a defendant is liable, and, if he has, then they must award damages. As I informed you at the start of this case, the first step in this case has already been decided. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that the D.C. Board of Parole violated Mr. Singletary's constitutional rights when it revoked his parole in 1996 without due process of law. And you are instructed that as a matter of law, the District of Columbia is liable to the plaintiff for the harm he suffered as a result. So the questions for you to decide are: whether the deprivation of plaintiff's liberty caused him harm, and if so, what amount of damages will compensate him for that harm.

If you find that the plaintiff was harmed, you must award him a sum of money which will fairly and reasonably compensate him for all the damage he experienced which was proximately caused by the defendant.

Mr. Singletary has the burden of proof on the two issues that you will be asked to decide. That means that you may find in his favor only if you find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he was harmed as a proximate result of having his parole revoked without due process. In addition, if you find that Mr. Singletary was harmed as a proximate result of having his parole revoked without due process, the amount of that you find he is entitled to as compensation must also be supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

If you find that plaintiff did not prove any damages, then you may award nominal damages in the amount of $1.

[Let me explain proximate cause.]

An injury or damage is proximately caused by an act, or a filure to act, whenever it appears from a preponderance of the evidence that the act or failure to act played a substantial part in bringing about the injury or damage. Moreover, it must be shown that the injury or damage was either a direct result or a reasonably probable consequence of the act or failure to act.

You have heard evidence in this case regarding Mr. Singletary's grievances and complaints made to personnel at Sussex II State Prison in Waverly, Virginia. Mr. Singletary is not seeking damages on the grounds that Sussex personnel acted improperly or failed to act with regard to his eyesight. You are not being asked to determine whether Mr. Singletary received proper care or treatment in connection with his incarceration. Instead, this evidence was admitted to provide a context for plaintiff's testimony regarding his day-to-day prison existence.

If you determine that Mr. Singletary was harmed, you may award damages for any of the following items:

-- Mr. Singletary's loss of liberty or freedom proximately resulting from the revocation of Mr. Singletary's parole. This means, that you should determine the amount of money that would fairly and reasonably compensate him for the actual fact of his incarceration. This includes a consideration of the length, and of the severity of that incarceration.

-- Any physical suffering or discomfort that Mr. Singletary may have experienced as a proximate result of having his parole revoked without due process, with the exception that, as I have explained, the District is not liable or legally responsible for plaintiff's loss of his eyesight or for the medical impact of the nature or the timing of the care he received. What I mean by that is, you cannot award damages because you say to yourselves, "gee, he said when he went into prison in 1996, he could see, but that when he came out in 2006, he couldn't, so maybe being incarcerated affected his eyesight," or even, "being incarcerated and having medical staff who didn't treat him properly or treat him soon enough affected his eyesight." That is not a part of this case, and it must not be a part of your damages calculation. So the physical suffering factor does not include the fact that he became less able to see. But if you find that the plaintiff has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that some aspect of his incarceration proximately caused physical discomfort, including discomfort in his eyes, that is something that you may consider.

-- Any mental or emotional distress, suffering, or anguish that Mr. Singletary may have experienced as a proximate result of having his parole revoked without due process. That emotional distress may include any negative impact Mr. Singletary may have experienced in his relationship with his family members that you find occurred as a proximate result of Mr. Singletary's parole being revoked. And while, again, the District is not liable for any changes in Mr. Singletary's sight, you may include in your calculation any mental anguish or emotional distress that he experienced in the process of seeking medical attention for his vision issues if you find that he experienced it as a proximate result of his parole being revoked.

-- Any loss of enjoyment of life that Mr. Singletary experienced as a proximate result of having his parole revoked without due process.

Now, you have heard testimony that guards or staff members at some of the facilities were not District of Columbia employees or that the facilities were not owned or managed by the District. But I have instructed you that the District is liable for the harm Mr. Singletary suffered as a proximate result of having his parole revoked. So you should consider the fact and the experience of his incarceration for the entire ten year period, and the effect that the experience may have had on Mr. Singletary at any of the places he was sent to serve that incarceration, no matter where the prison was located or who worked there.

There is no claim in this case for damages for any events that took place prior to the revocation of parole in 1996 or after Mr. Singletary's release in 2006.

You have heard evidence that plaintiff was convicted in 1984 and that he served his sentence from 1983 to 1990. That is the only conviction in this case.

You also heard evidence that plaintiff was incarcerated on other dates that were listed in the judicial notice.

You are instructed that the dates of incarceration before 1996 do not stem from any action of the D.C. Parole Board, and the plaintiff does not seek damages for any period of incarceration prior to 1996.

You are further instructed that the evidence that plaintiff spent other dates in jail has been admitted for one purpose only and that is, for your consideration in connection with your evaluation of the effect on Mr. Singletary of his incarceration from 1996 to 2006. You may consider this evidence for that purpose and for no other purpose.

The burden of proof is upon the plaintiff to establish all elements of his damages by a preponderance of the evidence. The plaintiff must prove his damages with reasonable certainty. You may only award the plaintiff damages for harm that is not speculative. Speculative damages are those that might be possible but are remote or based on guesswork.

The plaintiff does not have to prove his exact damages, however. You may award the plaintiff damages that are based on a just and reasonable estimate derived from relevant evidence.

You must base your decision, not on sympathy or speculation, but on the evidence you have heard. However, Mr. Singletary's testimony, standing alone, may support a finding of intangible harm such as emotional distress or loss of liberty. It was not necessary for Mr. Singletary to present evidence of the monetary value of intangible things such as emotional distress and loss of liberty.

Any amount that you award must be fair compensation, no more and no less. In determining the amount of Mr. Singletary's compensation, you should be guided by common sense. You must use sound judgment in reaching your verdict, drawing reasonable inferences from the facts in evidence.

The mere fact that I have given you instructions on damages does not in any way imply or suggest that I believe damages should be awarded in this case or the amount in which damages should be awarded. Those questions are for you alone to decide.

When you return to the jury room, you should first select a foreperson to preside over your deliberations and to be your spokesperson here in court. There are no specific rules regarding how you should select a foreperson. That is up to you. However, as you go about the task, be mindful of your mission -- to reach a fair and just verdict based on the evidence. Consider selecting a foreperson who will be able to facilitate your discussions, who can help you organize the evidence, who will encourage civility and mutual respect among all of you, who will invite each juror to speak up regarding his or her views about the evidence, and who will promote a full and fair consideration of that evidence.

The verdict that you render in this case must represent the considered judgment of each juror, and in order to return a verdict, each juror must agree on the verdict. In other words, your verdict must be unanimous.

I will be sending into the jury room with you the exhibits that have been admitted into evidence. You may examine any or all of them as you consider your verdicts. Please keep in mind that exhibits that were only marked for identification but were not admitted into evidence will not be given to you to examine or consider in reaching your verdict.

I will provide you with a copy of my instructions. During your deliberations, you may, if you want, refer to these instructions. While you may refer to any particular portion of the instructions, you are to consider the instructions as a whole and you may not follow some and ignore others. If you have any questions about the instructions, you should feel free to send me a note. Please return your instructions to me when your verdict is rendered.

If it becomes necessary during your deliberations to communicate with me, you may send a note to me through the Courtroom Deputy or one of the Court Security Officers, signed by your foreperson or by one or more members of the jury. No member of the jury should ever try to communicate with me except by such a signed note, and I will never communicate with any member of the jury on any matter concerning the merits of this case, except in writing or orally here in open court.

Bear in mind also that you are never, under any circumstances, to reveal to any person -- not the Courtroom Deputy, the Court Security Officer or me -- how jurors are voting until after you have reached a unanimous verdict. This means that you should never tell me, in writing or in open court, how the jury is divided on any matter -- for example, 4 to 4, or 2 to 6, or 7 to 1, or in any other fashion -- on any issue in the case.

You will be provided with a Verdict Form for use when you have concluded your deliberations. The form is not evidence in this case, and nothing in it should be taken to suggest or convey any opinion by me as to what the verdict should be. Nothing in the form replaces or modifies the instructions of law I have already given you. The form is meant only to assist you in recording your verdict.

20120717

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