Hung juries relate to jury trials where the jurors cannot agree on a unanimous verdict. What ends up happening is a criminal case goes off, the jury listens to all of the evidence. They deliberate, and then they come back to the judge and say, judge we can't come up with a verdict – either guilty or not guilty. In other words, in criminal cases in Los Angeles you have to have all twelve jurors agree on whatever the verdict is. So, if they can't agree then at some point the judge can declare a hung jury.
Now, the judges don't do that all the time. I've had trials and I've seen trials where jurors say they are deadlocked. They can't agree and the judge orders them to go back and continue to deliberate until they get a verdict. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn't.
Sometimes the jurors start pushing people around – figure it out, come up with a verdict. Other times the jurors come back again and say, listen, we tried. We cannot come up with a unanimous verdict.
Judge Declares a Mistrial in Los Angeles
At that point, the judge will declare a mistrial – he declares a hung jury and then the jurors will be excused. Then it will be up to the prosecutors whether they want to re-try that case. In other words, just because there is a hung jury doesn't mean the case goes away.
I've seen a case tried three times before there was finally a verdict on the case. So, the prosecutors have the choice as to whether they want to re-try it, but then the judge can still dismiss the case.
Even if the prosecutors want to re-try after a hung jury in Los Angeles, if a judge feels there is not enough evidence and it's probably going to result in a hung jury again, then the judge can dismiss the case on their own. So, there's a motion that the defense can file if the prosecutors decide to go forward after a hung jury and ask the judge to dismiss the case.
There's obviously a lot of factors and the judge is going to rely on – what I think is one of the biggest factors – is how serious the case is.
In other words, if it's a murder case, it's highly unlikely that a judge is going to dismiss a murder case. They're going to let the prosecutors do that. If the prosecutors don't want to do that, then they can re-try the case again, expend the money, time, resources, in order to try to get the conviction on the case.
Effect of a Hung Jury in Los Angeles
So, in criminal defense a hung jury is definitely better than a guilty verdict, but obviously, if you're going to jury trial in a criminal case in Los Angeles and you're the defense, you want a not-guilty verdict. You don't want a hung jury, but sometimes you start with a hung jury in Los Angeles, and then you see why the jury hung.
In other words, did it hang in favor of the defense or in favor of the prosecution? What are some of the problems for the defense in the case?
The jurors will usually point that out and let you know what they believe the issues are in the case, and a lot of times you can fix those issues as a criminal defense attorney and then come at it through a different way – either through investigation or different angles as far as cross-examining witnesses or presenting your own evidence and you can fix whatever problems there are from a defense standpoint and try to get that not-guilty verdict.
Now, on the flip side, the prosecutors can also see problems in their case. They can fix problems in their case. A lot of times jurors say, you had the burden of proof. You didn't do this. You didn't do that. Now the prosecutors – knowing it was a hung jury – they can go back and attempt to fix any problem they might have through investigation.
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They will ask witnesses different questions, getting different witnesses – taking a whole different approach on how they present the evidence in the case. So, both sides can do that if a case gets re-tried. Like I said, if it ends up in a hung jury again, it's the same process. The prosecutors decide whether they want to re-do the case and then the judge will make a decision on whether or not the hung jury results in a dismissal.
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