Criminal Procedures

Trial Process

When can a judge reverse a jury verdict?

Usually, trial judges do not overturn jury’s guilty verdicts. However, in most jurisdictions trial judges do have the power to do so when they feel that the verdict is in clear error. Some states provide that if a defendant has filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal, the judge can reserve judgment on that motion until after the jury reaches its decision.

For example, Virginia law provides: “If the jury returns a verdict of guilty, the court may, on motion of the accused made not later than 21 days after entry of a final order, set aside the verdict for error committed during the trial or if the evidence is insufficient as a matter of law to sustain a conviction.” Tennessee court rules provide that a trial judge can grant a new trial if the judge finds that the jury’s verdict is against the weight of evidence.


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