What is a Directed Verdict?

A directed verdict is something that occurs in a court case when the prosecution fails to produce enough evidence to prove his or her case. The judge overseeing the case can alert the jury that they should vote for an acquittal instead of finding the defendant guilty or innocent. The jury must follow the judge’s instructions and return with the verdict. Though commonly used during criminal cases, this type of verdict can also affect the outcome of a civil case too.

Court Trials

The first thing you need to understand is how a court trial works. Both the defense attorney and prosecutor will give opening statements to the jury that detail some of the facts of the case. Those two sides will then take turns presenting evidence and interviewing witnesses. Before the prosecution can bring a case to court, it must prove that it has enough evidence to show that the defendant is guilty. In traditional trials, the jury will then deliberate, talk about the evidence presented, look at the testimony provided by witnesses and make a decision regarding the guilt or innocence of the individual on trial.

Criminal Cases

A criminal case occurs when the prosecution believes it has enough evidence to show that an individual is guilty of a crime. Though the jury can deliberate and decide if the person is guilty and the type of sentence the individual should receive, the judge also has the right to call for a directed verdict. This usually occurs when the judge listens to the evidence and believes that the prosecution did not prove its case. It may also occur because the defense uncovered new evidence such as an alibi for the person on trial. The jury must then agree to either acquit the individual or find that person not guilty.

Civil Case

This type of verdict can also occur in a civil case. Some examples of civil cases include medical malpractice trials and product liability lawsuits. According to the American Bar Association, the defense can state that the prosecution did not prove without a reasonable doubt that the defendant is liable. If the judge agrees and believes that the jury should not deliberate or try the facts of the case, the judge can order this type of verdict. This will allow the defendant to leave the courtroom and will block the prosecution from filing new charges later.

Can a Judge Find a Defendant Guilty?

Though this type of verdict may find a suspected criminal not guilty, it cannot find a defendant guilty. Federal law in the United States gives suspected criminals the right to face a jury of their peers. If the judge allows the jury to find an individual guilty without listening to all witnesses and looking at all evidence, it is a violation of that law. Even if the judge believes that the person is guilty, that suspected criminal must have access to a trial in front of a jury.

The American legal system protects the rights of both victims and suspected criminals. It allows all criminals the right to a jury trial and allows that jury to make a final determination regarding an individual’s guilt or innocence. If the judge believes that the prosecution failed to make its case in civil or criminal proceedings, he or she may order a directed verdict.