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What is a hung jury and what exactly does it mean?

28 September 2012

ChessI just tried a felony case here in Northern Kentucky this week that resulted in a mistrial because the jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict. This is referred to as a hung jury. My client leaned over to me and asked,” So exactly what does that mean?”

A hung jury is when all twelve members of the jury panel cannot agree on the verdict, as they must under the rules of our judicial system. What it really means is much more difficult to explain and varies from case to case and client to client. In this case, the difference in the short term would have been that a conviction would have sent him to jail immediately and revoked his bond. A defendant has a qualified right to a bond until conviction, then it is discretionary with the judge. This judge has a standing rule that upon conviction the defendant is returned to jail, period. A plus for my client. Also, in this case, my client would be fired from his job if he was convicted.  In this particular case it means that the prosecutor will never try this case again. The reason is that the case can’t be tried before the same jury panel, which lasts until January 1 2013 which is the same day the prosecutor retires from her office. This was the strongest of two pending cases against my client; this one was the slam dunk, the clear cut dead lock cinch. If the prosecutor couldn’t win this one, there is no chance on the other charge.

The new prosecutor who is running for the office unapposed, is reputed to be a reasonable person and I will have a chance to discuss this case with him prior to a retrial.  I hope that a reasonable resolution to the cases will be reached without the necessity or  need of another trial. The Commonwealth Attorney swears an oath to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and to see that justice is done for all of the people. Their power exceeds all others in our state. They could indict the Govenor of Kentucky on criminal charges and, if successful at trial, put him in prison! It is absolutely necessary that such power must be wielded by rational,  professional, competent attorney who understands this  responsibility.

Criminal Defense, Frequently Asked Questions, General Legal Topics