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7.10 Readback or Playback

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If during jury deliberations a request is made by the jury or juror for a readback of a portion or all of a witness’s testimony, and the court in exercising its discretion determines after consultation with legal counsel that a readback should be allowed, the committee recommends the following admonition be given in open court with both sides and the defendant 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.

In United States v. Newhoff, 627 F.3d 1163 (9th Cir. 2010), the court underscored the need to take certain precautionary steps when an excerpt or entire testimony of a witness is requested by a deliberating jury. The court endorsed the "general rule" that when such a request is made and the trial court, in exercising its discretion, grants the request after consultation with the parties, it should require the jury to hear the readback in open court, with counsel for the parties and the defendant present after giving the admonition set out above, unless the defendant has waived the right to be present.

Approved 12/2012