Verdict

Black's Law Dictionary defines a verdict as “the formal and unanimous decision or finding of a jury”. A verdict is any decision that the jury reaches after careful analysis of the evidence of both the prosecution and the defense.

Types of verdict

  • General verdict
    These are verdicts where the jury either convicts or acquits the accused of the crime. General verdicts are run-of-the-mill and not for capital offenses.
  • Special verdict
    Also called insanity verdicts, these verdicts are given when the defense makes an insanity plea. The jury determines whether the accused is guilty or not, with due consideration to the insanity defense.
  • Different offenses
    If the accused is said to have committed multiple offenses, the jury will give multiple verdicts for each and every offense so committed.
  • Different degrees
    If the multiple offenses committed by the accused fall under different degrees of criminality, the jury provides verdicts addressing the crimes individually.
  • Aggravation verdict
    A verdict that is delivered by the jury after an aggravation hearing where the defense tries to reduce the accused’s sentence or the prosecution tries to increase the accused’s sentence.
  • Capital verdict
    A verdict provided by the jury during capital cases, to determine whether the accused should be given capital punishment (death sentence).

How do jury verdicts work?

  • Selection of the jurors
    Jurors can be any natural and permanent citizen of the country, who is a registered voter. Once selected, the chances of the person being re-selected as a juror are close to nil.
  • The trial
    The jurors attend the trial and listen to all the evidence produced by the prosecution and defense. Jurors are not allowed to read/watch the news or talk to anyone regarding the case before jury duty, to prevent from being influenced.
  • The discussion
    The jurors are seated in an isolated room, where they conduct discussions regarding the case at hand. As per law, all criminal cases must have a unanimous jury verdict. However, sometimes a hung jury (where no unanimous decision can be reached) is a possibility.
    In some countries, a supermajority is enough to break a hung jury. But in others, the jury is expected to continue their discussion until unanimity is reached.
  • Reconvening The jury reconvenes in the courtroom and informs the judge of their decision. The verdict is announced by either the court clerk or the foreperson.
  • Re-polling In cases where the defense is found guilty, the defense lawyer can request a re-polling. If the jury still stands at the same verdict, the sentence is carried out. However, if there is a change in the verdict, the jury is expected to re-start discussions and provide the court with a satisfactory verdict.