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Understanding What a Hung Jury Is and Its Implications


If you are facing criminal charges, there are several concepts that you need to understand. One of the concepts you need to understand is the concept of a hung jury. It is vital that you understand the meaning of a hung jury, situations that can lead to a hung jury, and the implications of a hung jury. A qualified criminal defense attorney can help you understand the concept of a hung jury. However, even before reaching out to an attorney for guidance, read on for some basic information on the definition of the term “hung jury,” circumstances that can lead to a hung jury, and what happens after a hung jury.

Hung Jury Definition

A hung jury is when jury members or jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision on whether the criminal defendant is guilty or not. A “hung jury” is also called a “deadlocked jury.” Hung juries can only occur in a jury trial. A bench trial (a trial without a jury) cannot result in a hung jury.

Generally, for a criminal trial to be completed, all jurors have to agree on whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. It can be a complicated situation when jurors have opposing opinions regarding the outcome of the case.

Circumstances That Can Lead to a Hung Jury

A hung jury can result from, among many others, the following situations;

  • Jurors disagreeing on the interpretation of the evidence presented: Different jurors may interpret the evidence presented by the prosecution and defense at trial differently. Some jurors may find some pieces of evidence more compelling than others. When jurors interpret evidence differently, it can result in disagreements and, thus, a hung jury.
  • Varying beliefs and values: The different beliefs and values among jury members can result in the inability to reach a unanimous decision.
  • Differing views on witness credibility: One of the things jurors consider during deliberations is witnesses’ credibility. A credible witness is one who the jury believes is competent and worthy of belief. If jurors cannot agree on the credibility of witnesses, it can result in a hung jury.
  • The case’s complexity: In a complex case, jurors may get confused, making it hard for them to reach a unanimous decision.
  • Inadequate evidence: Some jury members may believe the prosecutor did not provide enough evidence. These jurors may vote not guilty, while the rest vote guilty.

What Happens After a Hung Jury?

If there is a hung jury in a criminal case, the judge may ask the jury members to deliberate further. If, after further deliberations, there is still no unanimous decision, the judge will most likely declare a mistrial, after which the prosecution can decide to retry the case, dismiss the case, or negotiate a plea deal.

Can a Judge Require the Jury To Reach a Verdict?

A judge cannot require or compel a jury to reach a verdict. While a judge can encourage jury members to engage in thorough deliberations, they can’t force the jury to reach a unanimous verdict. The principle of jury independence is meant to ensure a fair and impartial trial. Jury members have a responsibility to review evidence, deliberate, and reach a decision based on their evaluations of the case.

Contact Our NYC Criminal Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, contact our skilled and dedicated NYC criminal attorney, Mark I. Cohen. We can help protect your rights and fight your criminal charges.

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