Hung Jury Explained: What happens with a hung jury?

You cannot always see a trial ending on a verdict of guilty or not guilty. Sometimes judges and the jury do not reach a unanimous verdict against a defendant, that may be because of the lack of evidence or sometimes prosecution fails to satisfy the judge.

Whatever be the reason, when this happens, the judge has two options to go with. A judge may declare the case as a mistrial or hung jury. What are hung jury and mistrial? What happens with a hung jury? Keep reading to find out.

What is a hung jury?

A hung jury is also known as a deadlocked jury where the jury members do not provide enough voting in the agreement of a verdict even after extensive deliberation. When judges do not reach a verdict with undisputed deliberations, the court will declare a case as a mistrial.

It is also up to the judge’s discretion to decide whether the jury is a deadlock or hung after determining that the deliberations are not enough to provide a verdict. A mistrial will be declared when the jury is determined hung or deadlocked by the judge, which results in a mistrial. A mistrial is something that takes the parties to the initial level from where they started.

This means the defendant has to request a retrial for the case with a new set of jury members and prosecutors. Not only this, when the case starts again, the defendant and the plaintiffs have to provide new evidence other than the ones that they provided in the first trial. This is because this evidence will allow judges and members of the jury to proceed with the case from a new angle. Previously submitted evidence may not bring different results from the one that a plaintiff bore the first time.

What happens with a hung jury?

A hung jury can be the most undesirable thing for lawyers as well as the parties. The most suggested approach to avoid the situation can be held before the trial starts which is the selection process. Both the defense and the prosecution have the opportunity to select and interview the selected jurors. If you have ever performed a jury duty, you must have an idea of how this process works.

Attorneys from both sides are called for interviewing the jurors and reaching an agreement to form a jury panel so there will be a mutual representation of both the communities. This will likely affect making the impartial decision for the defendant and plaintiff.

As you can imagine that this might not be possible for high-profile cases, so they likely are moved to certain jurisdictions where the case and the involved parties are less known so their fame would not influence the final verdict.

In addition, there are a number of other ways that judges can acquire when they can’t reach a verdict. The judge can also go for “Allen Charge”. With this, the judge will provide another chance for disagreed jury members to vote for the verdict. Due to Allen’s charge, the jury members will consider rethinking their decisions before the court proceeds to declare the jury hung and the case a mistrial. 

What does a disagreement look like?

During the court trial, the judges are allowed to take as much time as they want to reach an agreement or for the deliberation, on the grounds of practicality. This has been allowed for the purpose that they would be united on a final decision.

However, this cannot always be the case. In many jurisdictions along with the US, the jury needs to be on the same point when there’s a verdict against a criminal case. In many other countries like Canada and the UK, if the majority of the jurors agree on a verdict, the court will declare the case.

In situations where 10 out of 12 jurors agree on a certain verdict, it would be considered sufficient for the court to declare the verdict. However, in some jurisdictions, a slighter imbalance in the disagreement can hold the court and declare the jury hung.

The reason behind the disagreement can be many depending upon the case and the personality in question. When a jury is hung there may be differences of opinions involved between the lawyers, parties, judges, and jury members. It can also be the result of different impressions of parties and lawyers on the jury members. The influencing factors also involve the conflict between the diverging backgrounds of the parties that hinders the judicial process and be the reason for a hung jury.

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