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What Is a Court Verdict?

While the judge's verdict is typically final, many jurisdictions allow a party to request an appeal.
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  • Written By: Daphne Mallory
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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When a case goes to trial before a jury, it is the duty and responsibility of jurors to deliberate on the evidence presented by both sides and to reach a court verdict. A verdict is a decision reached by the jurors to determine whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty in a criminal trial or whether a defendant is liable in a civil trial. The decision is based on facts only, and a judge must decide on the penalty by sentencing or entering judgment if a defendant is found guilty or liable. There are special verdicts in which the judge must decide whether or not the defendant is guilty. The job of the jury in those cases is to strictly decide on the facts without making any inferences as to guilt or liability.

In a civil case, the jury receives instructions from the judge after the closing arguments, and they must deliberate on the evidence to reach a verdict. The court verdict that jurors often reach is twofold: liability of the defendant and the amount of compensation for damages. The jury must discuss and debate the facts in order to reach a decision based on the legal standard that the judge instructed them to use. One juror is often asked to state the verdict on behalf of the entire jury, and that person is called the jury foreman. Jurors must reach a verdict by a sufficient majority or unanimously, depending on the jurisdiction and the type of case.

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The standard court verdict in a criminal trial that jurors often deliver is “guilty” or “not guilty.” There may be multiple counts that a jury must make a decision on, and each count may end up with a different verdict. Before a jury is allowed to reach a final decision, the judge often gives them instructions on how to deliberate on the evidence and the legal standards that must be met, such as “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A judge must often accept a verdict of “not guilty,” but a judge may be able to set aside a “guilty” verdict if the conclusions reached by the jury were unreasonable or for other reasons. The judge often enters a judgment once the verdict is received and has to sentence the defendant if the verdict is “guilty.”

Some cases result in a hung jury if they cannot reach a court verdict based on a sufficient majority or unanimously, whichever is required by legal standards that are applicable in the case presented. The judge may send the jury back to deliberate further. If a verdict cannot be reached, then a judge often declares a mistrial. The plaintiff or prosecutor may bring the case to trial again.

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