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What Happens if There is a “Hung Jury” in Your Los Angeles Criminal Trial?
The prosecution has made its case. You and your defense attorney have put on the strongest possible defense. Now your Los Angeles criminal trial is in the hands of the jury. But what happens if there is a “hung jury” in your case?
In order for a jury to reach a verdict – whether guilty or not guilty – the decision must be unanimous. If even one member of the jury disagrees with the decision of all of the other jurors, the jury is hung.
When the jury comes back into the courtroom and announces that they have been unable to reach a verdict, the judge may direct them to go back and keep deliberating until they reach a unanimous verdict. At some point, however, it will become apparent that no amount of further discussion will sway all of the jurors to one side or the other.
There are a number of possible things that can happen after a “hung jury” in a Los Angeles criminal case. These possibilities include:
A mistrial. A mistrial is a trial that either went so far off course as to require a new trial or didn’t conclude as it was supposed to – with a verdict. When a judge declares a mistrial after a jury comes back hopelessly deadlocked, the prosecution may choose to retry the case again before a new jury.
A plea bargain. The preparation for and conduct of a criminal trial can be time-consuming, expensive, and exhausting. To have to go through that whole process over again after a mistrial, and face the risk of an adverse verdict, can be an unappealing option. Instead, prosecutors and the defendant may agree to a plea bargain in which the defendant pleads guilty to a reduced charge that carries a lesser sentence.
Retrial. After a mistrial due to a hung jury, the prosecution has the option to retry the case. However, they are under no obligation to do so. If, for example, the jurors in the hung jury were stuck at 11 votes in favor of acquittal and only one juror would have found the defendant guilty, the prosecution may see that as the writing on the wall and decide not to try the case again.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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