During jury deliberations in a criminal jury trial, a jury must reach a unanimous verdict. All the jurors- 12 for felonies or 6 for misdemeanors- must agree about whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
If after some period of time the jury cannot decide on a verdict, the judge may declare a mistrial. The mistrial will be referred to as a hung jury. Lawyers and judges use the term hung jury to mean that the jurors are fixed in the decisions and unable to make a unanimous decision. During these types of deliberations, it feels like I spend quite a bit of time staring at the door to the jury deliberation room.
When this happens, the State controls what happens next. The prosecutor for the State may make a much better plea offer might be presented by the State and should be carefully considered.
to try the case again at another trial calendar. At other times, the State may choose to dismiss the case believing that the best effort to try the case resulted in a hung jury and another jury would likely have the same result. Finally, the prosecutor may well decide to try the case again at the next trial date.
In cases of more significant charges, the State might decide to dig deeper and investigate the case further in an effort to uncover more evidence for that second trial.
A hung jury that results in a mistrial doesn’t mean the case is over, it simply means that there may be more options available.
© 2016 Nancee Tomlinson