Unintelligible Verdict Forms
August 29th, 2016

When a jury states it has a verdict and submits signed and dated guilty and not guilty verdicts on the same count, the flaw is not merely one of inconsistency in the verdicts; the jury’s verdict on that count is simply unintelligible. (See People v. Carbajal (2013) 56 Cal.4th 521.) The court’s failure to notify counsel of the problem implicates the defendant’s right to counsel. If notified counsel may be able to guide the court to the proper response i.e., informing the jury that it cannot find defendant guilty and not guilty of the same first degree murder. (See People v. Brown (2016) 247 CA4th 211, 233.) The error was prejudicial. However retrial is not precluded because the jury’s unintelligible verdict was not the equivalent of a verdict of acquittal.