We talk a lot about the advantages of a jury trial in this country, about how putting the decision in the hands of 12 individuals chosen at random is the most fair approach to ensure justice, but how does a jury make their decisions?

There is a lot that we do not know

Ironically, the method by which a jury arrives at a conclusion is unknown since rules prohibit people from scrutinising jury decisions and interviewing jurors about their findings.

There are numerous scholarly studies available, but they provide little insight into the process.

Despite the lack of “hard proof,” we do know the legal procedure that guides them in their decision-making, and most lawyers actively advocate trial by jury.

The internet age

If jurors seek information from these sources, the strength of Google and new networking areas like Facebook and Twitter might pose obstacles to a jury trial. Certain material is hidden from a jury for a purpose (for example, previous convictions), and going against express instructions not to discuss evidence with anyone other than a fellow juror when the jury is assembled, or seeking information from outside sources, jeopardises the jury trial.

As a result, jurors will be given unambiguous warnings during the course of the trial.

We start with 12

We always begin with 12 jurors; no criminal jury trial may begin with fewer.

However, for a variety of reasons, a trial does not usually end with 12. Jurors may become ill and unable to serve again, person they may be removed from a jury owing to misconduct during the trial in exceptional situations. A verdict can be reached as long as the number of jurors does not fall below nine.

A unanimous verdict

The Judge will always ask the jury for a unanimous verdict, which implies that all of the jurors agree on a verdict, such as guilty or not guilty.

In the early stages of discussion, a judge is banned by law from accepting a majority verdict, but there may come a time when a majority outcome is appropriate. The specifics of the case will decide the exact timing of this.

The jury will be summoned back into court and given instructions if a majority verdict is permitted. Even at that point, they’ll be asked if they think they’ll be able to establish a consensus. A majority decision will suffice if this is not possible.


On occasion, the Judge will notice that the jury is unable to make a decision, even if it is a majority decision. The Judge will usually be aware of this since the jury will leave a letter explaining the issue. The contents of that memo are rarely disclosed with the attorneys, owing to the fact that it “contains figures,” i.e. how many jurors are voting one way or the other. In all trials, such notes are kept private.

When a jury is deadlocked, the judge will issue a ‘give and take’ instruction, instructing all members to use their collective judgement to make a verdict.

Decision reached

If the jury comes to a unanimous decision, the matter is resolved; nevertheless, if the timing is right for a majority decision, a majority verdict may be acceptable.

The balance of votes, which is dependent on how many jurors remain, determines whether a majority verdict is admissible.

The combinations are:

Where there are 12 jurors: 11 – 1 or 10 – 2

Where there are 11 jurors: 10 -1

Where there are 10 jurors: 9 – 1

(where the jury falls to 9 jurors, only a unanimous verdict is acceptable).

If the verdict is not guilty, the defendant is free to leave court (provided no other things remain), but if the verdict is guilty, the judge will consider sentencing.

Back to deadlock

If it becomes evident that the jury is deadlocked despite more deliberation, the jury will be discharged, and the trial will be finished.

In certain cases, the prosecution has the option of proceeding with a fresh trial or dismissing the case (for example where it is clear at that stage that the evidence is weak). criminal justice

How we can assist

At Levy & Co Solicitors, we understand how stressful the trial process can be for both our clients and their families. We make every effort to explain what is happening and what will happen next at every level.

It’s your case, and you shouldn’t be treated like a bystander as the judicial process unfolds around you.

We don’t lose sight of the person behind the proceedings as seasoned trial lawyers.