A "presumption of perfection" attaches to the pattern instructions that Missouri judges read to jurors in every civil case.' Missouri law presumes that these instructions, as set forth in Missouri Approved Jury Instructions("MAI") Fifth Edition, are not only infallible statements of the law, but also perfectly comprehensible to the average juror. Even if jurors in a given case complain that they do not understand a particular pattern instruction, the trial judge is without recourse, required to leave these instructions undisturbed even if a more understandable improvement might result. In contrast to the emphasis in many states upon legal accuracy,' as well as the apparent equal emphasis of the MAI drafters upon both accuracy and comprehensibility, a wealth of empirical research and scholarly commentaries over the past twenty years have indicated that simplicity and comprehensibility need far more attention. Numerous studies have identified an ongoing nationwide problem of juror miscomprehension of pattern instructions. Other research efforts have taken the next step: searching for ways to make currently incomprehensible instructions understandable to jurors. Most of these studies have found significant improvement in juror comprehension levels when traditional pattern instructions are rewritten based upon psycholinguistic principles of "simple English."

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