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Jury Verdict

Following the closing arguments in a trial, jurors deliberate in private to arrive at a verdict, which is then reported to the court by the jury foreman or forewoman. Defendants in federal jury trials have the right to a unanimous verdict. This is not true in state jury trials, where the size of the jury determines whether unanimity is required: A 12-member jury may convict without unanimity, whereas a six-member jury may not.

In some cases, consensus among jurors is very difficult to reach. When jurors fail to reach an agreement, the judge may issue an instruction known as an Allen charge, in which the judge tells the jurors to continue deliberating and to listen carefully to each other and to be deferential toward each other's views. Continued failure to arrive at a verdict results in a hung jury, which necessitates a new trial with a different jury.

In criminal trials in most jurisdictions, the jury's job ends with the delivery of a verdict of guilt or innocence on every count pertaining to the case, and the judge determines sentencing. In civil cases, juries generally determine the amount of a damages award.

Jurors sometimes exercise their right to protest against a law that they consider unfair or unjust by voting "not guilty" even though the defendant is guilty of violating that law. This practice is called jury nullification and it goes back to colonial times. An example of JURY NULLIFICATION would be when a juror who believes that marijuana should be legalized votes "not guilty" in a case in which the defendant is accused of growing marijuana. The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), founded in 1989, provides information about jury nullification to prospective jurors who might not know that it exists as an option.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Jokes to Robert Marion La FolletteJury - History, Minnesota's Approach To A More Diverse Jury Pool, Should The Peremptory Challenge Be Abolished?