On the Subject of Partial Verdicts: A Series of Practical Questions Answered for District Court Judges
Volume 88, No. 3, Spring 2016
By Jessie D. Shields, J.D. Candidate, Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law, 2016 [PDF]

By summarizing existing case law and offering a practical guide of best practices—in the form of A Series of Practical Questions Answered—this Comment seeks to advise district court judges on the appropriateness of issuing partial verdict instructions and receiving partial verdicts. This Comment in no way suggests that district court judges should not exercise discretion when determining whether to issue partial verdict instructions or receive partial verdicts; it merely strives to serve as a potential resource. The hope is that this guide will assist judges in making decisions—quickly—about whether to give a partial verdict instruction or receive a partial verdict in a particular case. Specifically, this guide assists a district court judge in (1) making fast, informed decisions; (2) avoiding a reversal on appeal, despite its unlikelihood; and (3) avoiding having their decision, although affirmed, labeled erroneous by a federal court of appeals.
This Comment proceeds in two sections. Section I discusses the role and purpose of juries in federal criminal trials, Rule 31(b), and the advantages and disadvantages of allowing juries to return partial verdicts, as well as appellate reviews of convictions involving partial verdicts. Section II, based on an analysis of existing case law, aims to guide district court judges as to when a partial verdict instruction is appropriate and how, if appropriate, the instruction should be issued. Section II additionally advises on when it is appropriate to receive a partial verdict. It predicts seven questions that district court judges are likely to have and answers each of them in turn.