While a jury of one’s peers is supposed to act on behalf of the community, it is difficult for juries to reach a decision, which can often lead to disagreement or deadlock. A hung jury occurs when the deliberation chambers cannot agree on any verdicts and are unable to agree on who should be found guilty. It is a common occurrence in criminal trials and has been highlighted as a cause for concern within the criminal justice community.
Why Is It Important?
A hung jury is important to both sides of the argument during criminal trials as the decision made by the jury will mean a great deal to those involved. As such, it is important that both sides of the argument act in a professional manner to ensure that justice is served. However, if the verdict seems uncertain, then it may be good for both parties to find grounds for an appeal on which they can build their case.
While many legal cases have hung juries, this does not necessarily mean that the accused has been acquitted; however, it does mean that the jury members have failed to reach a consensus on whether or not the accused is guilty. (Refers to each juror’s vote). This can have lasting implications for both victims and defendants as well as for society at large. The decision to hold a trial is taken solely by the jury and any deliberations that follow depend on the jury’s decision.
If the jury is undecided over a case, it means that neither side has been able to convince any of the jurors to agree with their arguments. As a result, if the defendant is found guilty, he will be granted bail while his lawyers find grounds to appeal his conviction or seek a new trial. This could potentially lead to the accused remaining free until his appeal has been heard by a higher court and a verdict returned. If found innocent, he may be able to return home immediately as well as be entitled to compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.
As such, it is extremely important for both the prosecution and the defense to present compelling arguments and evidence during the trial in order to sway any members of the jury that might hold a different opinion on the matter. This is especially true of juries who are made up of both men and women as this allows them to have an in-depth understanding of both perspectives.
The decision by a jury not to reach a verdict also means that some criminals will escape justice and be able to remain free. Some who have been convicted of crimes may choose to appeal their convictions and seek a new trial where they could be found innocent. Meanwhile, convicted criminals may not be able to see their families again before they are released. Also, if a jury has become hung and no verdict is reached, then it may be time for all involved to consider the case closed.
In the case of the death penalty, it is possible that a jury in a capital case may vote to convict and sentence the accused, while other jurors may choose to abandon their role in the proceedings. This can lead to a deadlocked jury and can in turn lead to an automatic appeal by either side. (Refers to each juror’s vote). This has also been highlighted as being problematic within the criminal justice system.
If an individual is on trial for murder and a jury has failed to reach a majority verdict, it is possible that one side may be granted an appeal with the Supreme Court. For example, if the jury had decided that the defendant was guilty of manslaughter rather than murder, the prosecution may be able to use this as grounds for their appeal. In this instance, both slander and malice could be used as grounds for appeal as well as saying that the judge had abused his or her powers during the course of proceedings.
What Is the Position of the Courts?
There are a number of factors that can lead to a deadlocked jury including; if one or more jurors refuse to deliberate based on their previous judgments, if they are absent from proceedings, or if they choose not to reach a verdict by voting against their conscience. (Refers to each juror’s vote). It is widely accepted that jurors should reach their verdict based on what they believe is truthful rather than on their personal feelings.
A hung jury can technically occur at any point in a trial and is often said to be caused by the inability to reach an unanimous verdict. A hung jury does not necessarily mean that the defendant is innocent as those jurors who remained behind could have chosen not to reach a verdict due to their lack of knowledge or experience.
The courts have taken steps to ensure that juries do not become deadlocked. For example, they are encouraged to take part in regular discussions and vote multiple times in order to reach a consensus. If no verdict is reached after a number of votes, the jury may be dismissed. This could result in a mistrial being declared or the case could go back to court within a few months.
Where to Find Out More?
If you are interested in learning more about what a hung jury means and whether or not there are any possible solutions, you will find our book very useful: ‘A Guide to Understanding Law’ by Paul Mears is an excellent source of information.
It is also suggested that you carry out a full review of any laws that may be relevant to your case. If you need any assistance with this, why not ask one of our legal experts to give you a hand?
A hung jury can be problematic as it may lead to the accused being acquitted, while also causing a great deal of distress and distress for victims. It may also lead to concerns over the competence of jurors who are unable to reach a verdict after a lengthy trial period. In some cases, the next steps could include decisions on whether or not to re-try the case, while in others it may mean that all parties involved should consider other options.