A “hung jury,” also known as a “deadlocked jury,” is a jury whose members are unable to agree on a verdict by the required voting margin after extensive deliberations, resulting in a mistrial. It is up to the judge to determine whether the jury is “hung” or “deadlocked,” and the judge will make such a finding if he or she determines that further deliberations are unlikely to produce a verdict.
When the judge declares the jury to be “hung” or “deadlocked,” a mistrial is declared, which brings the trial to an end without a determination on the merits. In the United States, a mistrial returns the parties involved to the positions they occupied before the trial began. so the government may re-try the defendant in a criminal case, and the plaintiff may proceed with another trial in a civil case.
Juries often report that they are hopelessly deadlocked, often after deliberating for only a short time. In some jurisdictions, judges will respond by reading an “Allen charge” at least once. An “Allen charge” is also known as a “dynamite charge,” “hammer charge,” or sometimes simply “The Hammer.” It is a jury instruction based on the United States Supreme Court case Allen v. United States (1896), which approved of the practice.
Although an Allen charge varies by jurisdiction and even from judge to judge, since its purpose is to prevent a hung jury, it generally calls jurors’ attention to the significant time and expense of a trial and urges them to reconsider their vote, especially if they are in the minority.
In most jurisdictions in the United States, juries must be unanimous to reach a verdict. In criminal cases, Oregon is the only state that allows non-unanimous jury verdicts, requiring only 10 of 12 jurors to reach a verdict. Such a practice may soon be declared unconstitutional, however, as the United States Supreme Court is currently considering the issue in the case of Ramos v. Louisiana. Louisiana recently amended its state constitution to require unanimous jury verdicts in criminal cases.
Non-unanimous jury verdicts are more common in civil cases, with perhaps as many as one-third of the states allowing for non-unanimous decisions of some kind. Nonetheless, a hung jury is still possible if the jury cannot reach the required supermajority for a verdict.
Contact Rose Legal Services Today
If you are facing criminal charges in St. Louis, MO, the team at Rose Legal Services can help. We are committed to serving our clients, protecting their rights, and helping them achieve favorable case outcomes. When you work with a St. Louis criminal defense attorney from Rose Legal Services, you can rest assured knowing that your case is in capable hands.
Whether you need help from a St. Louis DWI lawyer or a St. Louis domestic violence attorney, you can rely on us. We handle a variety of cases, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. Our team of skilled criminal defense lawyers has the experience and resources needed to provide you with quality legal representation.
Don’t wait to get the legal representation you need. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do all 12 jurors have to agree?
Yes. In a criminal offense trial, all 12 jurors must agree on a judgment, whether it is a guilty verdict or otherwise, to reach a unanimous decision. If the jurors are unable to reach a unanimous verdict, the trial may result in a hung jury. Even if only one juror disagrees, a hung jury may occur.
What happens if a jury is hung twice?
If a jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict and results in a hung jury, the case may be retried with a new jury. If the second jury is also unable to reach a verdict, the judge may declare a mistrial. At this point, the prosecutor may decide whether to drop the charges, negotiate a plea deal, or retry the case a third time.
Who benefits the most from a hung jury?
It’s difficult to say who benefits the most from a hung jury, as it depends on the specific circumstances of the case. In some cases, the defense may benefit from a hung jury if it suggests that the evidence against the defendant is not strong enough to convince all 12 jurors of their guilt. On the other hand, the prosecution may benefit from a hung jury if it suggests that the case is still strong enough to pursue a retrial.
Ultimately, a hung jury is not a definitive outcome, and the case may still be resolved in favor of either the prosecution or the defense through a retrial or plea bargain.