Understanding Hung Jury: Implications, Options, and Strategies
Understanding the concept of a hung jury and its implications is essential for anyone facing legal charges.
A hung jury occurs when members of a jury are unable to come to an agreement on whether or not the accused party is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It can be a complex situation with multiple factors at play, from double jeopardy laws to handling multiple counts or charges in court.
In this article, we will explore the concept of a hung jury, its implications and options available for both parties involved in such scenarios as well as strategies that may prove useful in navigating them successfully.
If you are facing criminal charges, it is essential to have skilled legal representation in order to maximize your chances of a favorable outcome. At The Defenders, we are committed to helping you obtain the best possible result for your case. Contact us today for a free case evaluation!
Hung Jury Definition
A hung jury is when the members of a jury are unable to reach a unanimous decision on whether or not the accused party is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. This occurs when there are opposing opinions among the jurors regarding the outcome of the case.
When this happens, the judge must declare a mistrial and the case will either be retried, dismissed or plea bargained.
Circumstances That Lead to a Hung Jury
A hung jury typically results from several circumstances:
- Disagreement on Interpretation of Evidence: Jurors may have different interpretations of the evidence presented during the trial. Some jurors might find certain pieces of evidence more compelling and convincing than others, leading to disagreement.
- Conflicting Views on Witness Credibility: If jurors differ in their assessment of the credibility of witnesses, this could lead to a deadlock. One juror might find a witness to be credible, while another may not.
- Differing Personal Beliefs and Values: Sometimes, personal beliefs or values can affect a juror’s decision-making process. For example, a juror’s stance on issues like law enforcement or crime can potentially influence their verdict.
- Insufficient Evidence: A hung jury can occur when there is insufficient evidence for a unanimous decision. If some jurors believe that the prosecution has not met the burden of proof, they may vote not guilty, resulting in a deadlock.
- Complexity of the Case: In complex cases involving multiple charges or intricate legal issues, jurors may struggle to reach a consensus. The complexity can lead to confusion or differing interpretations of the law.
- Pressure to Agree: Sometimes, a juror may feel pressured to change their vote to reach a unanimous decision. If they resist this pressure, it can result in a hung jury.
These situations underscore the importance of having a skilled defense attorney who can effectively present your case and help ensure that the jury fully understands the evidence and issues at hand.
Role of a Jury in Criminal Trials
Juries play an important role in criminal trials. It is their responsibility to evaluate the evidence presented by both parties and make a verdict based on their deliberations.
Juries must reach a unanimous decision before they can return a guilty verdict.
This means that all jurors must agree for the defendant to be found guilty; otherwise, a mistrial occurs.
If there is disagreement among the jurors, it is referred to as a “hung jury”.
Hung Jury Laws in Nevada
In Nevada, hung jury laws are outlined in the state’s criminal code.
According to these laws, if a jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict and cannot be swayed after additional deliberation, the judge will declare a mistrial and set a new trial date.
It is also during this time where the prosecutor decides what to do next (see next section).
The defendant cannot be declared guilty or acquitted in such cases as double jeopardy applies. This means that the defendant cannot be tried twice for the same offense and must be given another opportunity to present their case.
What Happens After a Hung Jury
After a Hung Jury, the just will declare a mistrial and a new trial will be set. The prosecution has several options in this situation:
- Retrial: The prosecution may decide to retry the case. This is often the most common outcome after a hung jury. The decision to retry typically depends on the severity of the crime, the strength of the evidence, and the degree of disagreement among the jurors.
- Plea Bargain: The prosecution and defense could negotiate a plea deal. After a hung jury, the prosecution might be more open to offering a more favorable plea deal to avoid the uncertainty and expense of another trial.
- Dismissal: In some cases, like in this old murder case in Nevada, the prosecution may choose to dismiss the charges entirely, particularly if they believe that another trial would not result in a conviction. This decision is typically made when the evidence against the defendant is weak or if the jury was heavily leaning towards acquittal.
- Further Deliberation: Occasionally, the judge may ask the jury to deliberate further in an attempt to reach a unanimous decision; otherwise known as an “Allen charge”. This is a request for jurors to reconsider their views and attempt to reach a consensus.
Navigating these options can be complex, which is why it’s crucial to have experienced legal representation. A skilled defense attorney will be able to advise on the best course of action given the specific circumstances of the case.
Benefits and Drawbacks of a Hung Jury
A hung jury, while not an ideal outcome, offers both benefits and drawbacks for the parties involved in a trial.
Benefits of a Hung Jury:
- Avoids Immediate Conviction: For a defendant, a hung jury means they avoid an immediate conviction, as the prosecution has not convinced all jurors beyond reasonable doubt of their guilt.
- Possibility of a More Favorable Outcome: A hung jury can lead to more negotiation between the prosecution and defense, potentially resulting in a plea bargain with more favorable terms for the defendant.
- Chance to Refine Case Strategies: Both prosecution and defense get a chance to refine their strategies and arguments before a possible retrial, potentially strengthening their cases.
- Indication of Reasonable Doubt: A hung jury indicates that there was at least some doubt about the defendant’s guilt among the jurors, which could bode well for the defense in a retrial.
Drawbacks of a Hung Jury:
- Lack of Closure: A hung jury can be frustrating for all parties involved, as it prolongs the legal process and delays closure.
- Additional Costs: Retrials can be costly for both the prosecution and defense, as well as for the court system and taxpayers.
- Emotional Toll: The prospect of a retrial can be emotionally draining for the defendant, the victim(s), and their families, prolonging the stress and anxiety associated with the trial process.
- Uncertainty: While a hung jury may open the door to a more favorable plea deal or even dismissal of charges, it also leaves the possibility of another trial and potential conviction on the table.
Understanding these potential benefits and drawbacks is crucial for making informed decisions about legal strategy following a hung jury.
Double Jeopardy and Hung Jury Laws
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from double jeopardy, which is when someone is tried twice for the same crime. This amendment applies to both civil and criminal cases and means that once you are acquitted (found not guilty) or convicted of a crime, you cannot be charged with it again in the future.
However, if a jury fails to reach a unanimous verdict during a criminal trial, the judge will declare a mistrial and the defendant cannot be found guilty or acquitted. This is because double jeopardy does not apply in cases of hung juries, allowing the prosecution to retry the case if they so choose.
Handling Multiple Counts or Charges in a Hung Jury Situation
In some cases, a defendant may be facing multiple counts or charges.
If the jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict on all counts, they can still make a partial verdict. This means that the jurors must agree unanimously on at least one count in order for the judge to enter a judgment of conviction or acquittal.
The prosecution may then decide to issue a nolle prosequi (do not prosecute) on the remaining counts. This means that the prosecution will no longer pursue the charges and the defendant cannot be tried again for them in the future.
It is important to note that handling multiple counts or charges in a hung jury situation can be complex, which is why it’s important to have experienced legal representation. An experienced defense attorney will be able to advise on the best course of action given the specific circumstances of the case.
Facing Criminal Charges? Don’t Go It Alone
A hung jury can be a confusing and frustrating situation for all parties involved in a trial. It is important to understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of this outcome as well as the rights afforded by double jeopardy laws.
With experienced legal counsel, the defendants, victims, and their families can navigate this situation with confidence and clarity. An attorney can provide vital advice about possible courses of action as well as strategies to maximize the chances of a favorable outcome.
The Defenders is here to help you in this challenging time. Our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys is dedicated to providing the best possible representation and guidance for our clients.
Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help you understand your rights and options. We are committed to helping you get the justice you deserve.