Jury Deliberation

Following the judge’s charge—also called the judge’s instructions—the jury will head to the jury room to begin the deliberation process. Usually, the first thing that will happen in the jury room is that the jurors will elect one person to serve as the presiding juror, also called the foreperson. The foreperson then presides over the jury’s deliberation and usually delivers the verdict as well. No one from outside the jury is allowed to communicate with jurors at any point during the deliberation process.

Depending on state laws, juries may be allowed to take exhibits that were introduced during trial or judge’s instructions into the jury room. If the jury has a question during deliberation and needs to speak with the judge, the bailiff may take a note to the judge, which he or she may either respond to with another note or by calling the jury back into the courtroom.

Verdict and Jury Unanimity

Generally, the judge will provide the jury with written forms of the possible verdicts from which it may choose. Most often, a verdict must be agreed upon unanimously by all jurors; however, some states require only a majority verdict in certain civil cases. All federal cases—both civil and criminal—require a unanimous verdict.

Sequestration and Hung Jury

If a jury is unable to reach a verdict by the end of the day, the jurors may be sequestered in a hotel, away from any contact with the outside world—though this usually only takes place in high-profile cases. Usually, jurors are allowed to return to their homes at night, although the judge will instruct them to not read news reports or watch TV news programs regarding the case in question.

If, after deliberation, a jury is unable to reach a verdict, it is referred to as hung. When a hung jury occurs, a mistrial is declared.

Foreperson Unanimous Jury