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date: 21 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter offers a counter-history of criminal trial verdicts, restoring special verdicts to the story typically told about trial verdicts. According to this typical story, the dominance of the general verdict (‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’, a determination of both the factual and legal issues at trial) is thought to be both inevitable and right. While special verdicts are now virtually unknown in the English trial process, during the period of the development of the modern criminal trial, they played a greater role in criminal process, functioning as a means by which the seismic changes associated with the appearance of the modern criminal trial were negotiated in the courtroom. Bringing to light the all-but-forgotten past of trial verdicts opens the way to think again about verdicts in the current era, considering the possibilities for the restoration of a meaningful role for special verdicts.

Keywords: criminal law, historical analysis, legal history, criminal trial, special verdicts

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