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Centennial Bank v. Wood

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas

December 10, 2018

Centennial Bank et al.
v.
Wood et al.

         Ladies and gentlemen, here are some initial instructions about this case and your duties as jurors. At the end of the trial I will give you more instructions. I'll also give you instructions during the trial. Unless I specifically tell you otherwise, all my instructions- both those I give you now and those I give you later-are equally binding on you and must be followed.

         I'm the judge of the law and you're the judges of the facts. Your duty is to determine the truth from the evidence and the reasonable inferences arising from the evidence. Don't guess. Don't speculate.

         This is a civil case about a trust and how family members have handled trust income. Mrs. Mary Stiny is the lifetime beneficiary of a trust that she and her now-deceased husband established. Rena Wood is Mrs. Stiny's daughter. Wood helped her mother manage the trust's assets, including some apartments in California. Mrs. Stiny has gotten older, and has now been found incompetent because of dementia. Centennial Bank has been appointed guardian of Mrs. Stiny's estate. The Bank filed this case alleging that Wood has spent trust income, which belonged to Mrs. Stiny, for herself and others. Wood responds that she spent the trust income only as directed or approved by Mrs. Stiny before she became incompetent.

         You will decide what the truth is. You are entitled to consider all the evidence in the light of your own observations and life experiences. Use reason and common sense to draw conclusions from facts that have been established by the evidence. Apply those facts to the law that I give you in these and in my other instructions to reach your verdict. While you are the sole judges of the facts, you must follow the law whether you agree with it or not.

         Don't allow any sympathy or any prejudice to influence you. The law demands of you a just verdict, unaffected by anything except the evidence, your common sense, and the law as I give it to you.

         You should not take anything I may say or do during the trial as indicating what I think of the evidence or what I think your verdict should be.

         2. The evidence includes the testimony of witnesses, documents, and other things received as exhibits, any facts that have been stipulated─that is, formally agreed to by Centennial Bank and Wood─and any facts that have been judicially noticed─that is, facts which I say you must accept as true even without evidence.

         Certain things are not evidence:

1. Statements, arguments, questions, and comments by lawyers are not evidence.
2. Objections are not evidence. Lawyers have a right to object when they believe something is improper. Don't be influenced by the objections. If I sustain an objection to a question, ignore the question and don't try to guess what the answer might have been.
3. Testimony that I strike from the record, or tell you to disregard, is not evidence. Ignore it.
4. Anything you see or hear about this case outside the courtroom is not evidence. Ignore it.

         A particular item of evidence is sometimes received for a limited purpose only. That is, it can be used by you for one particular purpose, and not for any other purpose. I will tell you when that occurs, and instruct you on the purposes for which they item can and cannot be used.

         Finally, some of you may have heard the terms “direct evidence” and “circumstantial evidence.” Don't be concerned with those terms. The law makes no distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence. Give ...


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