What is a Hung Jury?

Bill Cosby is making headlines once again as he prepares to defend himself against allegations of aggravated indecent assault. Didn’t Cosby go through a trial for those very charges last year? Doesn’t double jeopardy protect Cosby from being tried again? Since Cosby’s trial resulted in a hung jury, the rules of double jeopardy don’t apply. In fact, it as if the trial against him never even happened, at all.

What is a Hung Jury?

When a defendant is charged with a crime they have the right to be tried by a jury of their peers. This essentially means that you have the right to have an unbiased and neutral panel of citizens hear and analyze your case. In order to be convicted of a crime, the jury panel, which typically consists of 12 members, must come to a unanimous decision. This means that all 12 jurors must agree that you are guilty of a crime.

If the jury’s decision is not unanimous, the trial will result in what is known as a “hung jury.” A hung jury can be split in any number of different ways. 11 guilty votes, 1 not guilty vote.  6 guilty votes, 6 not guilty votes. 1 guilty vote, 11 not guilty votes. It doesn’t matter what the split is.

What Happens After a Hung Jury?

So, the jury cannot come to a unanimous decision about a defendant’s innocence or guilt. What happens next? A hung jury, for all intents and purposes, basically means that the trial never happened in the eyes of the law. The arguments, evidence, and testimony were not sufficient to definitively persuade a jury. The judge will declare a mistrial at this point in time.

Three things can happen after a hung jury.

First, the state can decide to give it another shot and retry the defendant in front of a new jury panel. This is what is happening with Bill Cosby. The jury in his first trial couldn’t come to a decision, but the state believes that it has a solid argument and can prove his guilt. Both sides will be required to go through the entire trial process again. However, each side can learn from mistakes made or lessons learned in the first trial. The techniques and tactics used do not have to be identical in the next trial. In fact, many times, prosecutors or defense attorneys try entirely new strategies in new trials.

Second, the state can decide that the chances of winning at trial are slim and dismiss the charges against the defendant. A full analysis of the first trial and any insight provided by the jurors will help the state to determine if they think a case cannot be won.

Third, the state can decide to negotiate a plea bargain with the defendant. In offering a plea bargain, the state would allow the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge and receive a less severe penalty for a crime. A defendant may be inclined to accept a plea offer if they were concerned about their chances of success in a next trial.

Why Doesn’t a Second Trial Violate Double Jeopardy?

Double jeopardy protects defendants from being tried twice for the same crime. A trial that results in a hung jury is considered to have never happened in the eyes of the law. When the judge declares a mistrial, he or she is stating that the trial was prevented from concluding properly. Since the trial never happened in the eyes of the law, the defendant is technically not being tried twice for the same crime.

Get Help Fighting Criminal Charges in San Diego

Have you been charged with a crime in San Diego? Did you trial result in a hung jury or declared a mistrial for another reason? Contact the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC for help protecting your future. It is important to act quickly, so do not hesitate to call today to set up a free consultation.


Hung Jury