Recently we had a jury trial in Lafayette Parish. Our client was charged with second degree battery, which is a felony charge. Second degree battery is when someone inflicts serious physical pain on another so that the victim has experienced some loss of consciousness and needs to seek medical attention.
In this particular matter, the jury came back with a guilty verdict but not for the charge of second degree battery. Instead, they found my client guilty of a reduced misdemeanor charge. While we always hope for a not guilty verdict, we felt that this was a victory and our client was very happy to avoid a felony conviction. Based on my experience, it was my opinion that the jury simply “compromised the verdict.”
An experienced trial attorney understands that this happens often. After the jury trial, I spoke with one of the jurors about the verdict. The juror indicated that the six members of the jury were pretty much split; 3 wanted to find the client guilty and 3 wanted to find the client not guilty of the felony charge. As a result, they compromised the verdict.
A compromised or “returnable” verdict to a felony charge of second degree battery is a misdemeanor charge of simple battery. The jury, rather than make the hard decision to come back with the appropriate verdict, which I indicated should have been a not guilty verdict, instead chose to compromise and find the client guilty of a lesser charge of simple battery.
Conviction for Lesser Charges
Simple battery is when you physically touch someone without their permission. There does not have to be any serious injury nor does there need to be any medical treatment. I have always considered it a very minimal conviction. Notwithstanding the severity of the charge, we were able to convince the jury that the appropriate verdict should have been not guilty or a simple battery. In effect, the jury found my client not guilty of the felony charge and guilty of the misdemeanor charge of simple battery.
While it might seem that a jury has the option of “guilty” or “not guilty” only, the reality is that there are other options available to them. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know to present evidence that allows the jury to consider a lesser and included verdict when possible.
With battery charges, the difference between simple and second degree is substantial. Simple battery carries a possible sentence of 0-6 months – which is significantly less than 0-8 years for second degree battery. Receiving the compromised verdict of simple battery certainly made a huge difference in my client’s life.