PART IV: DECIDING ON A VERDICT

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What happens after the closing arguments?

Will anyone be in the jury room besides the jury?


What's the first thing we do?


What if we don't understand the jury instructions?


How should we conduct our deliberations?


Do we all have to agree?




What happens after the closing arguments?

After the judge gives you your instructions and you hear the attorneys' closing arguments, you leave the courtroom and go to the jury room to begin your deliberations. "Deliberation" is the process the jury uses to reach its verdict. During deliberations, the jury will discuss evidence and review law and facts.

Will anyone be in the jury room besides the jury?

No. But if you have any questions or need any help, the bailiff will be nearby.

What's the first thing we do?

The first thing you should do is elect one member of the jury to preside over the deliberations, seeing that everyone has an opportunity to participate and that the discussions remain orderly. The person chosen to preside takes part in deliberations and votes on the verdict along with everyone else.

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What if we don't understand the jury instructions?

You may take written copies of the jury instructions to the jury room with you. If you don't understand the instructions, you may ask the judge to explain them to you. It is usually best to put your questions in writing and ask the bailiff to give them to the judge, since the judge will discuss the questions with the attorneys before answering them.

How should we conduct our deliberations?

Each juror may have a different opinion at the start of deliberations. To reach a unanimous decision, some jurors may have to change their opinion. You should keep an open mind; listen carefully to other people's opinions, and the reasons for their opinions. You should be prepared to tell the other jurors what you think and why you think it. Be fair and carefully consider what your fellow jurors are saying. Do not let yourself be intimidated into changing your opinion, and do not intimidate anyone else. Change your opinion only if you genuinely agree with what another juror is saying. After a full discussion of the issues, the jury should be able to reach a decision that each juror can agree to with a clear conscience.

Do we all have to agree?

Yes. Every juror must agree on the verdict. This is known as a unanimous verdict. If the jury cannot agree, then the judge must declare a mistrial.

What should we do after we've reached our verdict?

The person chosen to preside will write down the jury's verdict on a form prepared by the judge, sign it, and notify the bailiff that a verdict has been reached. The bailiff will notify the judge, who will call everyone including the jury back to the courtroom. The clerk will ask for the jury's verdict and read it out loud.

"Your decisions can affect the human rights, the civil rights, the property rights, even the right to life of your neighbors and your fellow citizens. The Commonwealth has called on you and is now counting on you to apply your sense of equity and your common sense as laymen to the formal rules of law."

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PART V: GLOSSARY

The list below defines some of the terms not defined elsewhere in this pamphlet, as well as some terms you might hear at the court or during a trial.

action, case, cause, suit, lawsuit

These terms all refer to a proceeding in a court of law.

 

 

acquit

To find a defendant not guilty in a criminal trial.

 

 

affidavit

A written or printed statement made under oath.

 

 

answer

formal response made by the defendant, which admits or denies what is claimed by the plaintiff.

 

 

burden of proof

This term refers to which side is obligated to prove the facts of the case.

 

 

cause of action

A legal claim.

 

 

charge

A formal accusation that someone has committed a criminal offense.

 

 

counterclaim

A claim presented by the defendant in a civil case alleging that the plaintiff owes damages to the defendant.

 

 

cross-examination

An attorney's questioning of a witness called to testify by the other side in the case.

 

 

damages

Compensation (usually monetary) awarded to someone who has suffered loss, detriment, or injury to their person, property, or rights.

 

 

deposition

Sworn testimony taken and recorded outside the courtroom but according to the rules of the court.

 

 

evidence

Any form of proof legally presented at a trial, including records, documents, photographs, and testimony of witnesses.

 

 

exhibit

A paper, document, or other physical object presented to the court as evidence during a trial.

 

 

hearsay

Statements made out of court by someone other than the person testifying in court, which are offered to prove a matter in court.

 

 

impeachment of a witness

An attempt to show that the testimony of a witness is not truthful, accurate, or reliable.

 

 

inadmissible

Material or information that cannot be admitted or received as evidence under established rules of evidence.

 

 

indictment

A written accusation by a grand jury charging someone with committing a crime.

 

 

leading question

A question that suggests to a witness the answer the attorney wants to hear.

 

 

litigant

An individual who brings or defends a lawsuit.

 

 

motion

A request made by an attorney for a ruling or an order by a judge on a particular issue.

 

 

perjury

Lying under oath, which is a criminal offense.

 

 

plea

Defendants' statements of "guilty" or "not guilty" to criminal charges made against them.

 

 

pleadings

Formal, written allegations by both sides of their claims.

 

 

polling the jury

Asking jurors individually after the verdict has been read whether they agree with the verdict.

 

 

rebuttal

The introduction of contradicting or opposing evidence.

 

 

search warrant

A written order issued by a judge or magistrate, directing a law enforcement officer to search a specific location for specific things or individuals.

 

 

stipulation

An agreement by the parties that certain facts are true. Facts that have been stipulated do not need to be proven in the trial.

 

 

testimony

Any statement made by a witness under oath.

 

 

tort

An injury or wrong committed to someone else's person or property for which an injured party is requesting damages.

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GENERAL INFORMATION FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES

The Court System has adopted a policy of non-discrimination in both employment and in access to its facilities, services, programs, and activities. Individuals with disabilities who need accommodation in order to have access to court facilities or to participate in court system functions are invited to request assistance from court system staff. Individuals with disabilities (not employed by the court system) who believe they have been discriminated against in either employment or in access may file a grievance through local court system officials. Those who need printed material published by the court system in another format or who have general questions about the court system's non-discrimination policies and procedures may contact the Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia, 100 North Ninth Street, Third Floor, Richmond, Virginia 23219. The telephone number is (804) 786-6455; communication through a telecommunications device (TDD) is also available at this number.

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