The formal decision or finding made by a jury concerning the questions submitted to it during a trial. The jury reports the verdict to the court, which generally accepts it.
The decision of a jury is called a verdict. A jury is charged with hearing the evidence presented by both sides in a trial, determining the facts of the case, applying the relevant law to the facts, and voting on a final verdict. There are different types of verdicts, and the votes required to render a verdict differ depending on whether the jury hears a criminal or civil case. Though most verdicts are upheld by the judge presiding at the trial, the judge has the discretion to set aside a verdict in certain circumstances.
A general verdict is the most common form of verdict. It is a comprehensive decision on an issue. In civil cases the jury makes a decision in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant, determining liability and the amount of money damages. In criminal cases the jury decides "guilty" or "not guilty" on the charge or charges against the defendant. In cases involving a major crime the verdict must be unanimous. In minor criminal cases, however, some states allow either a majority vote or a vote of 10 to 2. In civil cases many states have moved away from the unanimity requirement and now allow votes of 10 to 2.
A special verdict is sometimes used in civil cases where complex and technical QUESTIONS OF FACT are involved and the parties seek to assert greater control over the decision-making process. The judge gives the jury a series of specific, written, factual questions. Based upon the jury's answers, or findings of fact, the judge will determine the verdict. Special verdicts are used only infrequently because parties often have a difficult time agreeing on the precise set of questions.
U.S. law does not permit chance verdicts. A chance verdict is one that has been determined not by deliberation but by a form of chance, such as the flip of a coin or the drawing of lots. Although such verdicts were once acceptable, they are now unlawful.
A directed verdict is not made by a jury. It is a verdict ordered by the court after the evidence has been presented and the court finds it insufficient for a jury to return a verdict for the side with the BURDEN OF PROOF. A court may enter a directed verdict before the jury renders its verdict. If the court allows the jury to make a verdict but then disagrees with the jury's evaluation of the evidence, the court can decide the case by issuing an order. For example, under rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a court can grant a judgment of acquittal to a defendant. In civil cases the court can issue a JUDGMENT NOTWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT.