What Is a Hung Jury?
In most jurisdictions, a unanimous jury decision is required for a verdict to be given, meaning all jurors must agree on whether the defendant is guilty or not. A hung jury, also known as a deadlocked jury, is a jury whose members are unable to agree on a verdict of guilty or not guilty.
What Happens in a Hung Jury?
If there is a hung jury, the judge may order the jurors to deliberate further. This is known as an Allen charge and is generally only given once or twice. Often, juries will report that they are deadlocked after only deliberating for a short period of time. An Allen charge urges the jurors to further reconsider their vote, especially if they are in the minority. Sometimes, the judge may even schedule a hearing where the jurors can ask questions to the parties involved.
If the jury still cannot reach a verdict after further deliberation, the judge can declare a mistrial due to the hung jury. A mistrial means that the defendant is neither convicted or acquitted. When this happens, the parties are returned to the positions they occupied before the trial began, so the prosecution may decide to either retry the case, enter into a plea bargain with the defendant, or dismiss the case.
Is a Hung Jury a Good Sign?
Sometimes, a hung jury can signal a positive outlook for the defendant. For example, if 11 jurors voted in favor of acquittal and only one juror voted to convict, the prosecution may see it as a sign not to try the case again. Thus, the case may be dismissed or the defendant may be offered a plea bargain. In any case, a hung jury is better than a conviction. Undoing a conviction is very difficult, and an appeal is not guaranteed.
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