hung jury | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction 

A Hung Jury is a  jury unable to reach a decision as to the guilt of the defendant, resulting in a mistrial.

A hung jury is a term used to describe a situation in which a jury in a criminal trial is unable to reach a unanimous or near-unanimous decision regarding the guilt or innocence of the defendant. When a hung jury occurs, it usually results in a mistrial, which means that the trial is declared invalid, and the case must be retried with a new jury.

During the trial, the jurors are required to listen to all the evidence presented, and based on that evidence, they must come to a decision about whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. In most cases, the jurors are required to reach a unanimous decision, although some jurisdictions allow for a verdict to be rendered if a certain number of jurors agree.

When a jury is deadlocked and cannot reach a decision, the judge may give what is known as an “Allen Charge” or “dynamite charge.” This charge is a set of instructions given to the jurors to encourage them to continue their deliberations and try to reach a verdict. However, if the jurors are still unable to reach a decision, the judge may declare a mistrial.

A mistrial means that the trial is over, and the case must be retried. In some cases, the prosecutor may decide not to retry the case, and the defendant may be released. However, in most cases, the case will be retried with a new jury.

It is not uncommon for juries to become deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict. This can occur for many reasons, including conflicting evidence, strong opinions among the jurors, or difficulty in interpreting the law. A hung jury can be frustrating for both the prosecution and the defense, as well as for the defendant, who may have to endure the stress and expense of a second trial.

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Last Modified: 04/18/2023

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