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Lawyers learn of jury verdict in chambers

Is it proper for a judge to reveal a jury verdict to lawyers before it is announced in open court?

The Daily Press puts this practice into question after a recent criminal trial in Hampton Circuit Court.

After the verdict was handed down in Deshawn Goodwin-Godfrey’s second-degree murder trial, a reporter observed the deputy commonwealth’s attorney and defense attorney being called into Judge Christopher W. Hutton’s chambers before the jury returned to the courtroom. When the attorneys emerged a few minutes later, the reporter noted that the prosecutor looked considerably more upbeat than his opponent.

Afterwards, Goodwin-Godfrey and others in the courtroom learned of the jury’s decision: Guilty.

In a handwritten note to the judge, the reporter objected that the attorneys learned of the verdict before everyone else. Judge Hutton responded that he’s required to review the verdict form for errors, and that he showed it to the lawyers for logistical reasons.

“I showed them the form without comment,” he told the Daily Press. “There was no discussion about it.”

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