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Waiting for the Verdict, Abraham Solomon, 1859

In law, a verdict is the formal finding of fact made by a jury on matters or questions submitted to the jury by a judge. [1] In a bench trial, the judge's decision near the end of the trial is simply referred to as a finding. [2] In England and Wales, a coroner's findings used to be called verdicts but are, since 2009, called conclusions (see Coroner § Conclusions (previously called verdicts)).


A verdict about murder. Terracotta tablet from Girsu, Iraq. 2112-2004 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul A verdict about murder. Terracotta tablet from Girsu, Iraq. 2112-2004 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul.jpg
A verdict about murder. Terracotta tablet from Girsu, Iraq. 2112–2004 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul


The term "verdict", from the Latin veredictum, literally means "to say the truth" and is derived from Middle English verdit, from Anglo-Norman: a compound of ver ("true", from the Latin vērus) and dit ("speech", from the Latin dictum, the neuter past participle of dīcere, to say).

Criminal law

In a criminal case, the verdict, which may be either "not guilty" or "guilty"—except in Scotland where the verdict of "not proven" is also available—is handed down by the jury. Different counts in the same case may have different verdicts.

A verdict of guilty in a criminal case is generally followed by a judgment of conviction rendered by judge, which in turn be followed by sentencing.

In U.S. legal nomenclature, the verdict is the finding of the jury on the questions of fact submitted to it. Once the court (the judge) receives the verdict, the judge enters judgment on the verdict. The judgment of the court is the final order in the case. If the defendant is found guilty, they can choose to appeal the case to the local Court of Appeals.

Compromise verdict

A compromise verdict is a "verdict which is reached only by the surrender of conscientious convictions upon one material issue by some jurors in return for a relinquishment by others of their like settled opinion upon another issue and the result is one which does not command the approval of the whole panel", and, as such, is not permitted. [3]

Directed verdict

In a jury trial, a directed verdict is an order from the presiding judge to the jury to return a particular verdict. Typically, the judge orders a directed verdict after finding that no reasonable jury could reach a decision to the contrary. After a directed verdict, there is no longer any need for the jury to decide the case.

A judge may order a directed verdict as to an entire case or only to certain issues.

In a criminal case in the United States, once the prosecution has closed its case, the defendant may move for a directed verdict. [4] If granted, the verdict will be "not guilty". [4] The prosecution may never seek a directed verdict of guilty, as the defendant has a constitutional right to present a defense and rebut the prosecution's case and have a jury determine guilt or innocence (where a defendant has waived his/her right to a jury trial and allowed the judge to render the verdict, this still applies).

In the American legal system, the concept of directed verdict has largely been replaced by judgment as a matter of law.

General verdict

A general verdict is one in which the jury makes a complete finding and single conclusion on all issues presented to it. First, the jury finds the facts, as proved by the evidence, then it applies the law as instructed by the court, and finally it returns a verdict in one conclusion that settles the case. Such verdict is reported as follows:

"We the Jury find the issues for the plaintiff (or defendant, as the case may be) and assess his damages at one hundred thousand dollars."

Sealed verdict

A sealed verdict is a verdict put into a sealed envelope when there is a delay in announcing the result, such as waiting for the judge, the parties and the attorneys to come back to court. The verdict is kept in the sealed envelope until court reconvenes and then handed to the judge. [5] This practice is virtually the default in many U.S. jurisdictions or may be the preference of the judge involved.

Special verdict

In English law, a special verdict is a verdict by a jury that makes specific factual conclusions rather than (or in addition to) the jury's declaration of guilt or liability. For example, jurors may write down a specific monetary amount of damages, or a finding of proportionality, in addition to the jury's ultimate finding of liability. A special jury verdict form may be used to have the jury answer directed questions as to the required elements for a cause of action or special issues, and to demarcate monetary awards of damages by economic and non-economic damages, beneficiary and/or specific categories of damages (lost earning capacity, funeral expenses, loss of consortium, pain and suffering, etc.). [6] In the words of William Blackstone, "The jury state the naked facts, as they find them to be proved, and pray the advice of the court thereon". [7] Special verdicts are intended to focus the jury's attention on the important questions at hand. [8]

The judge forced a special verdict in the famous 1884 case of R v. Dudley and Stephens , which established a precedent that necessity is not a defence to a charge of murder, but generally it is recommended that such verdicts should only be returned in the most exceptional cases. [9] [10]

The jury has a historic function of tempering rules of law by common sense brought to bear upon the facts of a specific case. For this reason Justices Black and Douglas indicated their disapproval of special verdicts even in civil cases. [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

Jury instructions, directions to the jury, or judge's charge are legal rules that jurors should follow when deciding a case. They are a type of jury control procedure to support a fair trial.

Jury trial Type of legal trial

A jury trial, or trial by jury, is a lawful proceeding in which a jury makes a decision or findings of fact. It is distinguished from a bench trial in which a judge or panel of judges makes all decisions.

Jury Group of people to render a verdict in a court

A jury is a sworn body of people (jurors) convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Juries developed in England during the Middle Ages and are a hallmark of the Anglo common law legal system. They are still commonly used today in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and other countries whose legal systems are descended from English and later British legal traditions.

Judgment notwithstanding the verdict, also called judgmentnon obstante veredicto, or JNOV, is a type of judgment as a matter of law that is sometimes rendered at the conclusion of a jury trial. In U.S. federal civil court cases, the term has been replaced by the renewed judgment as a matter of law, which emphasizes its relationship to the judgment as a matter of law, formerly called a directed verdict. In U.S. federal criminal cases, the term is "judgment of acquittal".

Jury nullification (US/UK), jury equity (UK), or a perverse verdict (UK) describes a not guilty verdict of a criminal trial's jury despite a defendant having clearly broken the law. Reasons may include beliefs that: the law itself is unjust, the prosecutor has misapplied the law in the defendant's case, the punishment for breaking the law is too harsh, or general frustrations with the criminal justice system. Some juries have also refused to convict due to their own prejudices in favor of the defendant. Such verdicts are possible because a jury has an absolute and unqualified right to reach any verdict it chooses, although they are usually not told of this right in the process of a trial.

An inquisitorial system is a legal system in which the court, or a part of the court, is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case. This is distinct from an adversarial system, in which the role of the court is primarily that of an impartial referee between the prosecution and the defense. Inquisitorial systems are used primarily in countries with civil legal systems, such as France and Italy, or legal systems based on Islamic law like Saudi Arabia, rather than in common law systems. It is the prevalent legal system in Continental Europe, Latin America, African countries not formerly under British rule, East Asia, Indochina, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Most countries with an inquisitorial system also have some form of civil code as their main source of law.

Acquittal The legal result of a verdict of not guilty

In common law jurisdictions, an acquittal certifies that the accused is free from the charge of an offense, as far as the criminal law is concerned. The finality of an acquittal is dependent on the jurisdiction. In some countries, such as the United States, an acquittal operates to bar the retrial of the accused for the same offense, even if new evidence surfaces that further implicates the accused. The effect of an acquittal on criminal proceedings is the same whether it results from a jury verdict or results from the operation of some other rule that discharges the accused. In other countries, the prosecuting authority may appeal an acquittal similar to how a defendant may appeal a conviction.

In United States law, a motion is a procedural device to bring a limited, contested issue before a court for decision. It is a request to the judge to make a decision about the case. Motions may be made at any point in administrative, criminal or civil proceedings, although that right is regulated by court rules which vary from place to place. The party requesting the motion may be called the moving party, or may simply be the movant. The party opposing the motion is the nonmoving party or nonmovant.

A hung jury, also called a deadlocked jury, is a judicial jury that cannot agree upon a verdict after extended deliberation and is unable to reach the required unanimity or supermajority. Hung jury usually results in the case being tried again.

Not proven is a verdict available to a court of law in Scotland. Under Scots law, a criminal trial may end in one of three verdicts, one of conviction ("guilty") and two of acquittal.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is a legal standard of proof required to validate a criminal conviction in most adversarial legal systems. It is a higher standard of proof than the balance of probabilities and is usually therefore reserved for criminal matters where what is at stake is considered more serious and therefore deserving of a higher threshold.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure govern civil procedure in United States district courts. The FRCP are promulgated by the United States Supreme Court pursuant to the Rules Enabling Act, and then the United States Congress has seven months to veto the rules promulgated or they become part of the FRCP. The Court's modifications to the rules are usually based upon recommendations from the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal judiciary's internal policy-making body.

Trial Coming together of parties to a dispute, to present information in a tribunal

In law, a trial is a coming together of parties to a dispute, to present information in a tribunal, a formal setting with the authority to adjudicate claims or disputes. One form of tribunal is a court. The tribunal, which may occur before a judge, jury, or other designated trier of fact, aims to achieve a resolution to their dispute.

In France, a cour d'assises, or Assize Court, is a criminal trial court with original and appellate limited jurisdiction to hear cases involving defendants accused of felonies, meaning crimes as defined in French. It is the only French court consisting in a jury trial.

Court of assizes (Belgium) Criminal court in Belgium

The court of assizes is the trial court which tries the most serious crimes in the judicial system of Belgium. It is the highest Belgian court with criminal jurisdiction, and as such, it is the only Belgian court that can sentence someone to life imprisonment. The courts of assizes are not permanent courts; a new court of assizes is assembled for each new trial. There is a court of assizes in each of the ten provinces of Belgium, and one in the arrondissement of Brussels-Capital. Further below, an overview is provided of the eleven courts of assizes and their seats. They are the only courts in Belgium for which the provinces are used as territorial subdivisions. They are also the only courts in Belgium that hold jury trials. The jury acts as sole trier of fact, but decides on the penalty together with the judges. The trial by jury of certain crimes is laid down in article 150 of the Belgian Constitution. The Belgian courts of assizes have the same origin as their French namesakes.

Juries in England and Wales Law of trial by jury in England and Wales

In the legal jurisdiction of England and Wales, there is a long tradition of jury trial that has evolved over centuries.

Jury nullification in the United States has its origins in colonial America under British law. In the United States, jury nullification occurs when a jury in a criminal case reaches a verdict contrary to the weight of evidence, sometimes because of a disagreement with the relevant law. The American jury draws its power of nullification from its right to render a general verdict in criminal trials, the inability of criminal courts to direct a verdict no matter how strong the evidence, the Fifth Amendment's Double Jeopardy Clause, which prohibits the appeal of an acquittal, and the fact that jurors cannot be punished for the verdict they return.

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: "[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb..." The four essential protections included are prohibitions against, for the same offense:

The Virginia Circuit Courts are the state trial courts of general jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Circuit Courts have jurisdiction to hear civil and criminal cases. For civil cases, the courts have authority to try cases with an amount in controversy of more than $4,500 and have exclusive original jurisdiction over claims for more than $25,000. In criminal matters, the Circuit Courts are the trial courts for all felony charges and for misdemeanors originally charged there. The Circuit Courts also have appellate jurisdiction for any case from the Virginia General District Courts claiming more than $50, which are tried de novo in the Circuit Courts.

A citizen’s right to a trial by jury is a central feature of the United States Constitution. It is considered a fundamental principle of the American legal system.


  1. (see Black's Law Dictionary, p. 1398 (5th ed. 1979)
  2. "Should I Waive a Jury Trial and Instead Have a Bench Trial?". Greg Hill & Associates. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  3. "Monti v. Wenkert, 947 A. 2d 261—Conn: Supreme Court 2008". Supreme Court of Connecticut. May 27, 2008. Retrieved 29 November 2010.
  4. 1 2 "Steps in a Trial – Motion for Directed Verdict/Dismissal". American Bar Association. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  5. "Sealed Verdict Law and Definition" . Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  6. "DiDomenico v. Terry Witt, M.D. – Jury Verdict Form". Scribd. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  7. Commentaries on the Laws of England (14th ed.) 3 377
  8. Grady, John F. (9 August 1982). "Trial Management and Jury Control in Antitrust Cases". Antitrust Law Journal. 51 (2): 249–260.
  9. R v. Bourne (1952) 36 Cr App Rep 125 at 127, CCA, per Lord Goddard CJ
  10. R v. Agbim [1979] Crim LR 171, CA
  11. U.S. v. Spock, 416F.2d165 (1st Cir.July 11, 1969).

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Verdict"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.