What is a Hung Jury?

As you likely know by now, a mistrial has been declared in the Freddie Grey trial, due to a hung jury. You may be wondering what a hung jury is, and how it happens.

How Hung Juries Happen

In some civil cases, only a majority of jurors need to agree in order for a verdict to be rendered. But in criminal matters, generally, jurors must be unanimous. A hung jury is when a jury cannot get unanimous consent to convict someone of a crime.

As you might imagine, because unanimity is required, it only takes a single juror to “hold out” to have a hung jury. If 11 jurors want to convict and one does not believe that there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict, the jury ends up hung.

Where there are multiple counts against a defendant, a jury can “hang” on some counts, and render a verdict on others. Hung juries result in mistrials, which do allow the state to retry the defendant on those counts.

Who Benefits From a Hung Jury?

Practically, a hung jury can be an advantage to a defendant. Aside from the obvious—the defendant wasn’t convicted—the case against the defendant would have to be retried by the state. But the second time around, the defendant often has the tactical advantage of knowing what state witnesses will say and what the evidence will be (although the state has the same advantage as to the Defendant’s evidence and witnesses).

Sometimes, faced with the specter of a brand new trial and the cost and uncertainty that goes with it, prosecutors will offer a more favorable plea deal to defendants.

The judge in the Freddie Grey trial has ordered the lawyers for both sides not to speak with jurors, so it is impossible to know why the jury was hung, but in most cases, it is simply a matter of both sides being persuasive.

The Grey Trial

Practicalities often come into play, as well. In cases like Grey’s, where there are no videos or cameras and stories are often he-said she-said, it may be harder for a jury to come to a conclusion. In cases like this one, where a jury must determine if someone’s actions were “reasonable,” a vague and subjective term, it can be difficult for a jury to reach a consensus.
A strong defense in court can be persuasive to a jury. If you are charged with a crime make sure your attorneys understand how to ensure you get a fair trial. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.