Legal Definition of Verdict
The formal decision issued by a jury on the issues of fact that were presented at trial.3 min read
The formal decision issued by a jury on the issues of fact that were presented at trial. The unanimous decision made by a jury and reported to the court on the matters lawfully submitted to them in the course of the trial of a cause.
Verdicts are of several kinds, namely, privy and public, general, partial, and special.
A privy verdict is one delivered privily to a judge out of court. A verdict of this kind is delivered to the judge after the jury have agreed, for the convenience of the jury, who after having given it, separate. This verdict is of no force whatever; and this practice being exceedingly liable to abuse, is seldom if ever allowed in the United States.
A public verdict is one delivered in open court. This verdict has its full effect, and unless set aside is conclusive on the facts, and when judgment is rendered upon it, bars all future controversy in personal actions. A private verdict must afterwards be given publicly in order to give it any effect.
A general verdict is one by which the jury pronounce at the same time on the fact and the law, either in favor of the plaintiff or defendant. The jury may find such a verdict whenever they think fit to do so.
A partial verdict in a criminal case is one by which the jury acquit the defendant of a part of the accusation against him, and find him guilty of the residue: the following are examples of this kind of a verdict, namely: when they acquit the defendant on one count and find him guilty on another, which is indeed a species of general verdict, as he is generally acquitted on one charge, and generally convicted on another; when the charge is of an offence of a higher, and includes one of an inferior degree, the jury may convict of the less atrocious by finding a partial verdict. Thus, upon an indictment for burglary, the defendant may be convicted of larceny, and acquitted of the nocturnal entry; upon an indictment for murder, he may be convicted of manslaughter; robbery may be softened to simple larceny; a battery, into a common assault.
A special verdict is one by which the facts of the case are put on the record, and the law is submitted to the judges. The jury have an option, instead of finding the negative or affirmative of the issue, as in a general verdict, to find all the facts of the case as disclosed by the evidence before them, and, after so setting them forth, to conclude to the following effect: "that they are ignorant, in point of law, on which side they ought upon those facts to find the issue; that if upon the whole matter the court shall be of opinion that the issue is proved for the plaintiff, they find for the plaintiff accordingly, and assess the damages at such a sum, etc.; but if the court are of an opposite opinion, then they find vice versa." This form of finding is called a special verdict. In practice they have nothing to do with the formal preparation of the special verdict. When it is agreed that a verdict of that kind is to be given, the jury merely declare their opinion as to any fact remaining in doubt, and then the verdict is adjusted without their further interference. It is settled, under the correction of the judge, by the counsel and, attorneys on either, side, according to the state of the facts as found by the jury, with respect to all particulars on which they have delivered an opinion, and, with respect to other particulars, according to the state of facts, which it is agreed, that they ought to find upon the evidence before them. The special verdict, when its form is thus settled is, together with the whole proceedings on the trial, then entered on record; and the question of law, arising on the facts found, is argued before the court in bank, and decided by that court as in case of a demurrer. If either party be dissatisfied with their decision, he may afterwards resort to a court of error.
There is another method of finding a special verdict this is when the jury find a verdict generally for the plaintiff, but subject nevertheless to the opinion of the judges or the court above on a special case stated by the counsel on both sides with regard to a matter of law.