In civil cases, as noted above, in the event that a jury returns a special verdict or a general verdict with interrogatories in which the specific findings are internally inconsistent or, in the case of a general verdict with interrogatories, where the interrogatory answers are inconsistent with the general verdict, the court may require the jury to engage in further deliberations or order a new trial.12 The court must try to reconcile any apparent inconsistencies in the jury’s verdict. The jury’s verdict will stand as long as the court finds one possible method of construing the jury’s answers as consistent with one another and with the general verdict.13
It is also possible to have inconsistent verdicts in criminal cases. For example, a defendant may be acquitted of a predicate offense, i.e., a separate offense which also forms part of a larger, or compound, offense, but convicted of the compound offense, which necessarily includes the predicate offense. Similarly, a defendant may be acquitted of a lesser included offense that implicitly results in acquittal of a more serious offense, the aggravating element of which is required for the conviction of a related compound offense as to which the jury convicted the defendant. An inconsistent verdict will not automatically be held invalid, however. The verdict will stand if it can be explained in terms of jury leniency.14
12. Super. Ct. Civ. R. 49(a), (b).
13. Citisteel USA, Inc. v. Connell Limited Partnership, No. 312, 1997, Holland, J. (Del. May 18, 1998) (ORDER), disposition reported at 712 A.2d 475 (Del. 1998) (TABLE); Grand Ventures v, Whaley, 622 A.2d 655, 664 (Del. Super.), aff’d, 632 A.2d 63, 72 (Del. 1993).
14. Garvey v. State, 873 A.2d 291, 301 (Del. 2005); Whitfield v. State, 867 A.2d 168, 174 (Del. 2004); Davis v. State, 706 A.2d 523, 526 (Del. 1998);Tilden v. State, 513 A.2d 1302, 1306-07 (Del. 1986); State v. Crouse, Cr. A. Nos. 1N89-l0-0391-0392 & 0394, slip op. at 5, Del Pesco, J. (Del. Super. Dec. 12, 1988).
© 2010 David L. Finger