Delaware Trial Handbook § 27:3. VERDICTS IN CRIMINAL CASES

In criminal cases, the verdict of the jury must be unanimous and must be returned by the jury to the judge in open court.7 In death penalty cases, a unanimous verdict is no longer required in the sentencing phase.  Instead, the jury makes its recommendations by majority vote and the trial judge is vested with ultimate sentencing authority.  The jury’s role is purely advisory.  The trial judge is free to accept or reject the recommendation of the jury.7.1

If there are two or more defendants or two or more counts, the jury at any time during its deliberations may return a verdict or verdicts with respect to a defendant or defendants as to whom it has agreed or with respect to a count or counts as to which it agrees.8 A verdict on one count is not necessarily invalid because of what the jury did or failed to do as to any other count.9 Further, absent evidence of coercion, a verdict is not invalid simply because the jury rendered it quickly.9.1

“Compromise verdicts,” that is verdicts which result from the surrender by some jurors of their conscientious convictions in return for some like surrender by the others, are invalid.  In examining “compromise verdict” claims, courts conduct a two-part analysis. First, they must determine whether the jury verdicts are inconsistent as a matter of law. Second, if the verdicts are legally inconsistent, they must determine whether the outcome could have been the result of jury lenity, in which case the verdicts will remain undisturbed.9.2

7. Del. Const. art. I, § 4; Super. Ct. Cr. R. 31(a); Comm. Pls. Ct. Cr. R. 31(a); Claudio v. State, 585 A.2d 1278, 1301 (Del. 1991); Probst v. State, 547 A.2d 114, 120-21 & n. 7 (Del. 1988); Brown v. State, 369 A.2d 682, 684 (Del. 1976); Fountain v. State, 275 A.2d 251, 251-52 (Del. 1971).

7.1. 11 Del. C. § 4209; Lawrie v. State, 643 A.2d 1336, 1346 (Del.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1048 (1994).

8. Super. Ct. Cr. R. 31(b); Comm. Pls. Ct. Cr. R. 31(b).

9. Alston v. State, 410 A.2d 1019, 1020 (Del. 1980).

9.1. Purnell v. State, 979 A.2d 1102, 1109 (Del. 2009).

9.2. Whitfield v. State, 867 A.2d 168, 173-74 (Del. 2004); Davis v. State, 706 A.2d 523, 525 (Del.1998).

© 2010  David L. Finger