In Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts said during a trial, "Sentence first, verdict afterwards." Are there any common law countries where this could be legal? Could the judge say "This is the sentence if the defendant is convicted" before the jury reached a verdict? I don't see how it would be a due process violation, because the defendant has still been convicted by a jury and sentenced by a judge, just in the "wrong" order.

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    As a general rule, this is not done because it can lead to "jury nullification" (where a jury votes to acquit, not due to their belief that the burden of proof has been met, but rather due to some dissatisfaction with the law), except in cases where the jury has a say (or at least recommendation) as to the sentence. Note that in the Alice in Wonderland example, it meant execution to be carried out before jury deliberation, and was essentially being held up as a means to show that the queen of hearts is executing people arbitrarily.
    – sharur
    Jul 2, 2022 at 7:11
  • In most civil-law (which has been excluded in this question) jurisdictions this would not be possible due to provisions in the criminal code on how to calculate the final penalty (multiple cases of one crime ; multiple crimes etc.) for a particular case. The verdit, therefore, must be known for each count. Jul 2, 2022 at 7:21

2 Answers 2


No, but the legislature can (and does)

Many jurisdictions have mandatory sentences where there is no judicial discretion in sentencing. In effect, the sentence is known when the charges are laid - if the defendant is found guilty.

  • If that is the case, what would the sentence be for this case if found guilty of all counts (possibly leaving out the last)? Three police die in 'pure hell' Kentucky shooting - BBC News: He has been charged with two counts of murdering a police officer, five counts of attempted murder of a police officer, one count of attempted murder and one count of first-degree assault on a service animal. Jul 3, 2022 at 15:11

Things are just not done that way

This was intended as an absurdity. It was funny precisely because no real trial could operate in this way. Legal processes were one of the subjects that Carrol liked to poke fun at. In addition to the trial of the Knave of Hearts there is the short verse known as "The Mouse's Tale" in chapter two, which reads:

Fury said to a mouse, that he met in the house, 'Let us both go to law: I will prosecute you - Come, I'll take no denial; We must have a trial: For really this morning I've nothing to do.' Said the mouse to the cur, 'Such a trial, dear Sir, with no jury or judge, would be wasting our breath.' 'I'll be judge, I'll be jury,' Said cunning old Fury: 'I'll try the whole cause, and condemn you to death.'

As to a real trial, there is surely no common-law jurisdiction where the sentence, or even the possible sentence, is announced before the verdict. It is true that in some cases the penalty for a conviction is fixed, or lies within a very narrow range, by statute. But technically, such an appointed penalty is not a sentence until it is formally imposed after a guilty verdict. And the penalty, or range of penalties, that would follow a guilty verdict is not announced before the trial, although it might be known to many participants.

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