What is a Trial Verdict?

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  • Written By: Lori Smith
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 02 March 2020
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A trial verdict is the determination, usually by a jury, about whether or not a defendant has been proven guilty of a crime. This occurs at the conclusion of a civil or criminal hearing. Many times, it is a jury who delivers this verdict to a judge, who will then request that the decision be read aloud in a courtroom. In addition to this judgment, jury members may also determine the punishment. This is more common in civil law cases, however.

The evidence presented during legal proceedings is often discussed and analyzed by jurors in a private room. A trial verdict generally follows their careful deliberations. Many times, they will rely on common sense to determine the credibility of a witness. They will also consider the overall believability of testimony, based on how an individual’s statements collaborate with other witnesses; an established timeline that makes sense to them; or simply gut instinct. They may also review photographs of a crime scene, and other documentation that was introduced into evidence.

Jury instructions, usually provided by a judge, is normally different for criminal and civil proceedings. In criminal trials, there is a greater burden on prosecuting attorneys to prove their cases. In most jurisdictions, a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is any doubt in the minds of a jury, then a not-guilty verdict is usually rendered. The burden of proof is less stringent for civil cases.


Usually, all jury members must agree unanimously to deliver a trial verdict. If, after careful deliberation, they are not able to concur, then a hung jury may result. When this happens, a new trial can be set and the process may start all over again. In some jurisdictions, however, a majority ruling is sufficient and all jury members do not have to agree.

In many common law countries, a defendant has the right to stand trial and be judged by a jury of his peers. Sometimes, a defense lawyer will request a bench trial, which means that the verdict is rendered by the presiding judge. Usually, this is a strategic move by the defense team when a case is extremely emotional or sensitive in nature, and they believe that a jury would have trouble remaining impartial. While the defendant has a right to request a bench trail, it is less common.

Civil cases are handled somewhat differently than criminal ones when it comes to a trial verdict. Whereas criminal punishments are usually decided by the judge, a jury in a civil case often renders a decision about monetary compensation that may be awarded to a plaintiff. A jail sentence is not generally a factor in a civil case, because presumably, a criminal offense was not committed. In civil cases, such as lawsuits, the jury decides whether a defendant is responsible for a negligent act. They may then be tasked with determining the amount of money a plaintiff should be awarded.

Some defendants are individuals, while others are corporations. For example, a slip and fall case may go to trial after a plaintiff injures himself after falling on wet tile located in a public, business location, such as a shopping mall. He may then sue the business entity for negligence. If he wins the case, he might be entitled to a financial award from the responsible party. The jury may decide to award him the cost of medical expenses, missed time at work, and compensation for pain and suffering.



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