Chief Justice John Jay's Instruction to the Jury in Georgia v. Brailsford
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3 U.S.(3 Dall.) 1, 3-4 (1794)
Chief Justice John Jay, in a rare jury trial in front of the Supreme Court, in what may be the most quoted jury instruction of all time, instructed the jury as follows:
- The facts comprehended in the case are agreed; the only point that remains, is to settle what is the law of the land arising from those facts; and on that point, it is proper, that the opinion of the court should be given. It is fortunate, n the present, as it must be on every occasion, to find the opinion of the court unanimous; we entertain no diversity of sentiment; and we have experienced no difficulty in uniting in the charge, which it is my province to deliver.
- It may not be amiss, here, Gentlemen, to remind you of the good old rule, that on questions of fact, it is the province of the jury, on questions of law, it is the province of the court to decide. But it must be observed that by the same law, which recognizes this reasonable distribution of jurisdiction, you have nevertheless a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy. On this, and on every other occasion, however, we have no doubt, you will pay that respect, which is due to the opinion of the court: For, as on the one hand, it is presumed, that juries are the best judges of fact, on the other hand, presumable, that the court are the best judges of the law. But still both objects are lawfully within your power of decision.