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What happens when a verdict is read?

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2021 | General Law

With the Derick Chauvin trial being televised many people saw the reading of a verdict for the first time. The broadcast was pretty close to what my experience has been, but it did not show all of the lead up, and typical follow up to the reading.
When you are the attorney handling a case where someone has been accused of a crime, after the jury starts deliberations you and your client leave the courtroom, but, you stay close by as you need to be back in court when the verdict comes in. It is hard to concentrate on anything else when waiting for the verdict, your client’s fate is in the balance. When the jury reaches a verdict they tell the bailiff, who then tells the judge, someone from the court then calls you and tells you the verdict was in. You return to the courtroom, along with your client, the prosecutor, judge and court staff, and anyone else who wants to hear the verdict. The stakes are high, your client’s future, and often their freedom are on the line. In a serious felony case if the verdict is not guilty your client walks out the front door with you, if it is guilty they go out the side door into the jail.
After everyone is back in the courtroom the jury walks in, the jury foreperson hands a piece of paper, the verdict form to the judge, who looks at it, and hands it to the court clerk to read. You and your client stands up, the clerk reads the verdict form, it seems to take forever, before getting to the verdict the case caption and a preamble is read. The anticipation is like the World Series and the Super Bowl put together, but more intense, at least the losing team never goes to jail in those games, but, if you are on the losing side of a trial your client may be looking at years of prison. When you are defending a criminal charge you are always the underdog, the prosecution wins roughly 85% of the time, a win by the defense is almost always an upset. When the verdict goes your way the elation is sky high, when it does not it is like taking a Mike Tyson punch right in the gut.
In my career I have seen it go both ways, big wins, and losses. Fortunately the last three times I have stood for a verdict it has been not guilty, and each time I had no doubt that it was the right decision by the jury.
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